Pakistani magazine offers safe space to young South Asian writers

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Updated 24 January 2021

Pakistani magazine offers safe space to young South Asian writers

  • The Desi Collective's volumes feature poems and stories connected by the South Asian identity of writers
  • It is not only a magazine but also a safe space where writing is reviewed by fellow authors, discussed and supported

RAWALPINDI: When he realized that too many doors were closed for South Asian storytelling in Pakistan and abroad, Lahore-based Arslan Athar decided to help fellow young writers strike out into the world of letters by establishing The Desi Collective (TDC).

Founded in 2019, TDC is not only a magazine where aspiring authors can have their poetry and prose published but also a safe space where their writing is reviewed by fellow writers, discussed and supported. The magazine has recently released its third volume, “Letters to My Inner Child.”

"A lot of writers who haven't been published or are new to their career say they have few avenues of recognition, encouragement, validation, even experimentation in a way that is fruitful for them," Athar told Arab News.

"We as a society do not encourage writing enough and despite that attitude, there is heaps of talent," he said. "We don’t celebrate our own literature or culture enough."

TDC’s volumes feature poems and stories about Partition, love found, love lost, surviving abuse and assault, and finding oneself. All of them are connected by the shared identity of being South Asian.

“Having new writers who are South Asian tell their stories bravely and without concern about prejudice is important," Athar said, “This way our stories, our way of life, our world view is put across in literature too.”

Sajeer Shaikh, 25, editor at MangoBaaz and SheSha, who contributed “Whiskey,” a story about feelings, to TDC’s first edition, says that it is a “welcoming safe space.”

“TDC allowed for vulnerability in my writing,” she told Arab News.

Another TDC author, Toronto-based M. Nazar Syed, 24, who used to write for the Express Tribune Blogs to “tell stories about Pakistanis to Pakistanis” said that when his columns stopped, he had no place to write.

"We have no literary magazines or literary outlets. We have so many stories to tell but not enough avenues to tell them," he told Arab News.

His “The Balloons” about a father in Karachi rushing to his son’s birthday is featured in the third volume of TDC.

"I am very proud that I was given a chance to contribute for what may eventually become the renaissance of Pakistani literature."


Pakistanis share tea-rrific memes on anniversary of Abhinandan's 'fantastic' cuppa

Updated 24 min 3 sec ago

Pakistanis share tea-rrific memes on anniversary of Abhinandan's 'fantastic' cuppa

  • Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 and soon released by Pakistan in a goodwill gesture
  • Video in which he said he had been treated well and 'the tea was fantastic' became a viral sensation

RAWALPINDI: Pakistani Twitterati did not miss the chance on Saturday to share new memes of an Indian pilot who two years ago became a social media sensation as he praised Pakistan Army officers for "fantastic tea."

Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on Feb. 27, 2019 when Pakistan shot down his jet for violating its airspace. He was soon handed over to India in a goodwill gesture, but a video in which he said he had been treated well and "the tea was fantastic" stayed with Pakistanis forever.

In remembrance of Abhinandan's tea, celebratory trends emerged on Pakistani Twitter, followed by new memes and laughs:  #FantasticTeaDay, #HappySurpriseDayIndia, #WorldsBiggestTeaParty.

Retired Pakistan Air Force veteran pilot Air Marshal Shahid Lateef pointed out that Abhinandan's tea was not only fantastic but also expensive as it cost him his MiG-21 jet.

 

 

Pilot and entertainer Fakhr-e-Alam commemorated the day by tweeting out a tongue-in-cheek promotion of Pakistani hospitality and tea.

 

 

Fantastic tea was also combined with another major trend of the day — the ongoing Pakistan Super League — on the cricket event's "strategic timeout" poster.

 

 

Another Twitter user shared a shot of a trail of teacups, writing: “Let’s attract Indian pilots.”

 

 

As four trees fell on the Pakistani side during the Indian operation of Abhinandan was part, on Fantastic Tea Day comedian Ali Gur Pir released an entire track in honor of the fallen wooden heroes.

 

 

As Abhinandan memes continue to entertain Pakistanis, Twitter user Sadaf Ikram shared a photo of the pilot's portrait being used in advertisements and thank him for “fueling creative thinking" in Pakistan.

 


 

 


Pakistan security forces kill 2 militants in southern Sindh province

Updated 27 February 2021

Pakistan security forces kill 2 militants in southern Sindh province

  • Officials say the slain militants were involved in attacks on police and security forces in South Waziristan and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • The two men entered Sindh province in recent days and had been under surveillance of security agencies

MULTAN: Pakistani counterterrorism police and secret service officials raided a militant hideout Saturday, killing two militants accused of involvement in attacks on security forces, an official said.
Shahid Solangi, a counterterrorism officer, said the early morning raid took place in the Patni area of the city of Sukkur in southern Sindh province. He said the militants attempted to escape and opened fire on officers, triggering a shootout. Solangi said two militants belonging to the Noor-e-Islam group of the Pakistani Taliban were killed.
Solangi said the slain militants were involved in attacks on police and security forces in South Waziristan and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in the northwest. He said the two men entered Sindh province in recent days and had been under surveillance of security agencies.
Pakistani militants have in recent months stepped up attacks on security forces in the former tribal regions in northwest and southwestern Balochistan province, raising concerns that insurgents are regrouping in various parts of the country.


Pakistan experts: Religiosity fostering rise in militancy

Updated 27 February 2021

Pakistan experts: Religiosity fostering rise in militancy

  • Analysts say TTP has major strength for mass-casualty operations across former tribal areas, Swat, Balochistan and Punjab 
  • Militancy has spiked in recent weeks, with at least a dozen military and paramilitary men killed in ambushes, attacks and operations

ISLAMABAD: Militant attacks are on the rise in Pakistan amid a growing religiosity that has brought greater intolerance, prompting one expert to voice concern the country could be overwhelmed by religious extremism.
Pakistani authorities are embracing strengthening religious belief among the population to bring the country closer together. But it’s doing just the opposite, creating intolerance and opening up space for a creeping resurgence in militancy, said Mohammad Amir Rana, executive director of the independent Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies.
“Unfortunately, instead of helping to inculcate better ethics and integrity, this phenomenon is encouraging a tunnel vision” that encourages violence, intolerance and hate, he wrote recently in a local newspaper.
“Religiosity has begun to define the Pakistani citizenry.”
Militant violence in Pakistan has spiked: In the past week alone, four vocational school instructors who advocated for women’s rights were traveling together when they were gunned down in a Pakistan border region. A Twitter death threat against Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai attracted an avalanche of trolls. They heaped abuse on the young champion of girls education, who survived a Pakistani Taliban bullet to the head. A couple of men on a motorcycle opened fire on a police check-post not far from the Afghan border killing a young police constable.
In recent weeks, at least a dozen military and paramilitary men have been killed in ambushes, attacks and operations against militant hideouts, mostly in the western border regions.
A military spokesman this week said the rising violence is a response to an aggressive military assault on militant hideouts in regions bordering Afghanistan and the reunification of splintered and deeply violent anti-Pakistan militant groups, led by the Tehreek-e-Taliban. The group is driven by a religious ideology that espouses violence to enforce its extreme views.
Gen. Babar Ifitkar said the reunified Pakistani Taliban have found a headquarters in eastern Afghanistan. He also accused hostile neighbor India of financing and outfitting a reunified Taliban, providing them with equipment like night vision goggles, improvised explosive devises and small weapons.
India and Pakistan routinely trade allegations that the other is using militants to undermine stability and security at home.
Security analyst and fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation, Asfandyar Mir, said the reunification of a splintered militancy is dangerous news for Pakistan.
“The reunification of various splinters into the (Tehreek-e-Taliban) central organization is a major development, which makes the group very dangerous,” said Mir.
The TTP claimed responsibility for the 2012 shooting of Yousafzai. Its former spokesman, Ehsanullah Ehsan, who mysteriously escaped Pakistan military custody to flee to the country, tweeted a promise that the Taliban would kill her if she returned home.
Iftikar, in a briefing of foreign journalists this week, said Pakistani military personnel aided Ehsan’s escape, without elaborating. He said the soldiers involved had been punished and efforts were being made to return Ehsan to custody.
The government reached out to Twitter to shut down Ehsan’s account after he threatened Yousafzai, although the military and government at first suggested it was a fake account.
But Rana, the commentator, said the official silence that greeted the threatening tweet encouraged religious intolerance to echo in Pakistani society unchecked.
“The problem is religiosity has very negative expression in Pakistan,” he said in an interview late Friday. “It hasn’t been utilized to promote the positive, inclusive tolerant religion.”
Instead, successive Pakistani governments as well as its security establishments have exploited extreme religious ideologies to garner votes, appease political religious groups, or target enemies, he said.
The 2018 general elections that brought cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan to power was mired in allegations of support from the powerful military for hard-line religious groups.
Those groups include the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, whose single-point agenda is maintaining and propagating the country’s deeply controversial blasphemy law. That law calls for the death penalty for anyone insulting Islam and is most often used to settle disputes. It often targets minorities, mostly Shiite Muslims, who makeup up about 15% of mostly Sunni Pakistan’s 220 million people.
Mir, the analyst, said the rise in militancy is a complicated conundrum. It has benefited from state policies that have been either supportive or ambivalent toward militancy as well as from sustained exposure of the region to violence. Most notable are the protracted war in neighboring Afghanistan and the simmering tensions between hostile neighbors India and Pakistan, two countries that possess a nuclear weapons’ arsenal.
Mir and Rana both pointed to the Pakistani government’s failure to draw radical thinkers away from militant organizations, as groups that seemed at least briefly to eschew a violent path have returned to violence and rejoined the TTP.
Iftikar said the military has stepped up assaults on the reunited Pakistani Taliban, pushing the militants to respond, but only targets they can manage, which are soft targets.
But Mir said the reunited militants pose a greater threat.
“With the addition of these powerful units, the TTP has major strength for operations across the former tribal areas, Swat, Balochistan, and some in Punjab,” he said. “Taken together, they improve TTP’s ability to mount insurgent and mass-casualty attacks.”


Pakistan ready to resolve all issues with India through dialogue — PM Khan

Updated 45 min 37 sec ago

Pakistan ready to resolve all issues with India through dialogue — PM Khan

  • A cease-fire on Kashmir border was settled by Indian and Pakistani military operations heads on Thursday
  • PM’s words come on the second anniversary of Pakistan’s 'goodwill gesture' to release a captured Indian pilot

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday that Pakistan was ready to resolve all issues with India through dialogue as he welcomed an agreement between the two countries’ militaries to restore cease-fire along their disputed border in Kashmir.
The nuclear-armed neighbors signed a cease-fire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) — their de facto border in the Kashmir region — in 2003, but the truce has been fraying in recent years. In recent months, cross border firing has become frequent, often killing or maiming people living in the area.
In a joint statement on Thursday, the military operations heads of the two countries said they had agreed to discuss each other’s concerns that could disturb peace and lead to violence in the Himalayan region.
“We have always stood for peace & remain ready to move forward to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue,” Khan said in a series of tweets.
“I welcome restoration of the cease-fire along the LOC. The onus of creating an enabling environment for further progress rests with India.”
The prime minister’s tweets came also on the second anniversary of Pakistan’s move to release a captured Indian pilot whose jet was shot down in Pakistani airspace during a clash over Kashmir in February 2019.
At the time, Khan announced the pilot’s return “as a goodwill gesture aimed at de-escalating rising tensions with India.”
Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between Pakistan and India as both countries claim the region in full but rule it in part.
Tensions increased in August 2019, after New Delhi withdrew the autonomy of the Muslim-majority Kashmiri region and split it into federally administered territories.


Dream comes true at Peshawar game for wheelchair cricketer and diehard Zalmi fan

Updated 27 February 2021

Dream comes true at Peshawar game for wheelchair cricketer and diehard Zalmi fan

  • After an Arab News story made waves on social media, Amjad Ali was invited by Sindh Chief Minister to watch Friday’s game
  • Ali is Pakistan no.4 in wheelchair tennis and a national-level player of wheelchair cricket, basketball and handball

KARACHI: Diehard Peshawar Zalmi fan and wheelchair athlete Amjad Ali finally got the wish that had been eluding him for five years on Friday, when he was invited to attend the Peshawar-Quetta cricket match for the Pakistan Super League (PSL), after an Arab News story featuring him made waves on social media a day earlier.
Ali was born in Shangla, a hilly district in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, and now lives in a sprawling slum neighborhood in the seaside metropolis of Karachi. He was only a year old when he contracted polio and has never walked.
But disability did not dampen Ali’s dream to become a sportsman: he is now Pakistan no. 4 in wheelchair tennis and a national-level player of wheelchair cricket, basketball and handball. He also works as an accountant at a school during the day and teaches neighborhood children in the evenings.

“I didn’t know that my dream would come true,” Ali told Arab News from the cricket stadium on Friday. “I got a call from district administration that they had got a ticket in the VIP stand for me on the directions of chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, and they would take me to the stadium,” he said.
“Just look! My wish is fulfilled. I watched the match and met Javed Afridi,” he added, referring to the owner of the Peshawar Zalmi franchise.
Ali was in for a bonus treat as Peshawar ran Quetta down in a record runs chase of 199 in 20 overs, emerging victorious.
“I am very happy that my favorite team won, and I watched all this happening live in the stadium. I’m thankful to Arab News for the story, the Chief Minister for taking me to the stadium and Zalmi owner Javed Afridi for meeting me,” Ali told Arab News after the match.

Amjad Ali speaks to Arab News at his home in Farid Colony, Karachi, Pakistan, on February 24, 2021. (AN photo)

The inaugural national cricket league, PSL, was launched in 2016 and has been a spectacular success in the country, even though many matches in the first five editions were played in the UAE due to security risks, preventing fans like Ali from attending.
Last year however, all matches of the series were played in Pakistan for the first time, and an overjoyed Ali bought a ticket to see Peshawar play against the Multan Sultans. But he never made it to the stadium on March 13: the coronavirus pandemic broke out in February and lockdown restrictions were imposed, including a ban on spectators at stadiums.
This year again, Ali told Arab News on Thursday, with only 50 percent spectator capacity allowed at stadiums due to the coronavirus, getting his hands on a ticket was no easy task.
But when his story came out to the world, it changed things.
“This was an unforgettable moment. I can never forget it. The way they achieved this target and Wahab Riaz and Haider Ali batted was a treat to watch,” an overjoyed Ali told Arab News after the match.
A meeting with players was not immediately possible due to the Pakistan Cricket Board’s rules which don’t allow anyone to meet with the team, which is in a bio-secure bubble.
“But Javed Afridi told me that my wish to meet players will also be fulfilled soon after the coronavirus ends,” Ali said.