AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
16 Spirits of Steel, Dreams of Gold With a little more encouragement and financial support, Pakistan’s Paralympians could sweep the Games and bring home the Gold. Sadly, they remain ignored and unknown
24 Blacked out revisited: I was there PPP veteran Taj Haider’s eye-witness account of the 1982 anti-Zia protest in an Amsterdam hockey ground
27 Oil, Sweat and Dirt The glory of desi wrestling and pehalwans may be a thing of the past, but their legends live on
30 Bend it Like ... Babar?
A new generation of Pakistani footballers is all kleated up and ready to go
34 I Love Pakistan And I refuse to be stereotyped!
38 Hope Shines Through For poor children forced to drop out of school, HOPE’s home schools offer a solution
Regulars 6 People & Parties: Out and about with Pakistan’s beautiful people 41 Reviews: Fifty shades of groan 42 End Of The Line: Imran works his charm
Magazine Editor: Zarrar Khuhro, Senior Sub-Editors: Batool Zehra, Zainab Imam. Sub-Editors: Ameer Hamza and Dilaira Mondegarian. Creative Team: Amna Iqbal, Jamal Khurshid, Essa Malik, Maha Haider, Faizan Dawood, Samra Aamir, Sanober Ahmed. Publisher: Bilal A Lakhani. Executive Editor: Muhammad Ziauddin. Editor: Kamal Siddiqi. For feedback and submissions: firstname.lastname@example.org Printed: email@example.com
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Shadab Ambreen and Anila
Safa and Sabah
PHOTOS COURTESY SAVVY PR AND EVENTS
Gulzeb Asif celebrates Eid at her multidesigner store, Carnival, in Dubai Gulzeb, Muznah and Saima
Fauzia, Saad and Aamir
6 AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
Annie, Annya and Ahsan Khan
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
PHOTOS COURTESY BILAL MUKHTAR PR AND EVENTS
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Amna and Anjum
Shirin Hassan exhibits her Eid collection in Lahore
Saher and Amna
Bisma AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
Hina and Arooj
Shirin Hassan and Lubna
Ayesha and Sana
Amna and Najma
Kazim and Kiran
Bilal Mukhtar Shazia
10 AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
PHOTOS COURTESY BILAL MUKHTAR PR AND EVENTS
PEOPLE & PARTIES
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Reema, Rafia, Nida and Qasim
Verve organises a premiere for The Dark Knight Rises in Islamabad
Lamia and Rafia
Nida Ali and Urooj
Yasir and Tashia
12 AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
Nadia and Omer
PHOTOS COURTESY VERVE
Heleen and Aniy
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
PEOPLE & PARTIES
Amna, Nighat and Tania
Ahmer Farooq Sophia Sarah and Zahra
Fayeza and Tariq Amin
14 AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
Akhtar and Adnan
PHOTOS COURTESY VERVE
Zahra Raza and Imtisal
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
COVER STORY ing her leg from being completely damaged. However, it became weak and she was declared permanently crippled,” recalls Izzat.
Refusing to let their daughter fall prey to an inferiority com-
plex, they pledged to give her the opportunities that they had
given to all their other children. “We enrolled her in a municipal committee school in Gulistan Colony. It was about four kilo-
metres from our house and she would walk to school daily with her elder sister Naureen,” says Izzat, clearly proud of his young daughter’s resilience.
It was when she joined Faisalabad’s MC Girls High School that
she asked her father to allow her to participate in sports. Izzat
admits he was surprised at his daughter’s request. “How could a girl who was physically challenged participate in school and district-level games? But she was determined and I couldn’t resist the pressure from her anymore, so I let her participate,” he says. “To my amazement, she won a cup for a long race in the inter-school games!”
Buoyed by her success at the tournament, she went on to par-
ticipate in the Inter-District School Games in 2008. Little had Izzat or Anila known that these games would become the turning point in her life.
It was in these games that Mudassar, Anila’s current running
partner and mentor, spotted her and approached her with an offer she couldn’t refuse: inclusion in the Pakistani contingent scheduled to leave for the inaugural session of the Asian Youth Para Games in Japan in 2009.
Anila was excited but since she had never even expected such
an offer, she did not know how to bring it up with her father.
mother was found to be suffering from heart disease and passed
then met Izzat and told him how talented and capable his daugh-
aging father was struggling to make ends meet by selling pa-
Hence, she asked Mudassar to get her father’s consent. Mudassar
ter was and the wonders that she could do with only a little bit of proper training.
Moved by Mudassar’s own story of how his family had support-
ed him, Izzat decided he must let Anila go and live the dream.
Anila started preparing, and her biggest confidence boost came from her victory in the trial for under-19 teams in which she stood first.
But before she went to Japan, where she won two Gold medals
in javelin and shot put, Anila had an experience that has shaped her life forever — the Beijing Paralympics. She had gone to Bei-
pardoms. Izzat had worked as a powerloom manager and made Rs20,000 a month but after 40 years of work, his left leg became
paralysed and since then he has had to walk with the aid of a
stick. As the family tried to get back on its feet, Anila’s Olympic dreams fell by the wayside. Despite being the youngest of her
siblings, none of whom are disabled, Anila has herself become a crutch for her family. “Though we belong to the lower class, God has gifted us with a unique pearl which is shining at the global level,” says her sister Saima proudly.
Anila labours eight hours a day to prepare paapars, which she
jing feeling sure of herself, but returned with shattered self-con-
wraps in small packets for her father to sell in the city but she
and her own inexperience and the magnitude of the occasion
She goes for a daily three-hour workout to the athletic grounds
fidence. This was her first appearance in an event of this scale daunted her and she ended up under-performing.
She returned home dejected but her loving family only re-
sponded with more encouragement. “We were proud that our
Anila stood tall as an athlete representing Pakistan in her sports uniform,” says her elder sister Saima.
away soon after Anila’s return from Beijing. Meanwhile, Anila’s
Anila then decided to focus on the next Paralympics event —
London 2012. But life had something else in store for her. Her AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
still manages to find the time to train and exercise twice a day.
of the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, paying one hundred
rupees per hour for the use of the premises. But even there, sup-
port is half-hearted as she can only use the grounds from 1pm to 4pm so as not to ‘disturb’ the activities of university players. She has to travel 11 kilometres to get to the university from her house, but the lack of proper grounds means that she has no choice.
Despite the brave face Anila puts up before her family, she feels
a deep sense of betrayal and of being robbed of the appreciation
that she feels she should have gotten for her achievements. Al-
though there is no monetary reward attached to medals at these
Games, officials and private individuals often announce cash prizes for winners. After the Beijing Games, veteran politician
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain gave 200 dollars to Silver medallists and 100 to Bronze medallists. Later, then prime minister of Pakistan Mohammedmian Soomro announced a grant that
was released after two years. Sadly, despite Pakistan’s breaking the world record no major leader has visited or invited any of the players.
“Our government and corporate sector supports sportsper-
sons who bring global recognition for the country. They are paid handsome amounts of money and offered jobs. But I did not get
anything from any government agency. I have received no moral or financial support from anyone,” Anila says.
The NPC president and other members say they personally give
monthly stipends and monetary rewards to the athletes from their pockets, but also admit that the NGO itself cannot afford
“I cannot bear the pain of Beijing and this time, I will not let fate cheat me out of the Gold in London,” Haider says
to pay an amount big enough to help affect the lifestyles of the
minute, and just as this story was about to go into print, the sad
This time around, Anila had hoped for more recognition and
and will not be able to fulfil her dream of participating in the
possibly some monetary support. “The rewards from the medal will pay for my sister’s wedding. I have to win, I must,” she ex-
plains. “I only wished my mother was here with me. I wanted to bring back the Gold for her,” she adds, with a solemn expression on her face.
Tragically, this story does not have a happy ending. At the last
news came that Anila lost the last in a series of appeals to the IPC
2012 Paralympics. This was revealed to us in a phone conversation with NPC’s media director Huma Beg, who is currently in
London. Expressing her bitter disappointment and sadness at Anila’s exclusion, she said that this uncommon athlete would
nonetheless remain a strong contender for the future trainings of NPC and the Pakistan team.
“They [the Paralympians] come from very humble back-
grounds, with little hope and encouragement but, they manage to rise and break world records,” says Beg. “This is a moment of
reflection on how we still deny so many their true rights and how we close our eyes to the success of so many strugglers. It is our duty to find our own stars and create the environment that breeds more stars.”
A recent partnership between NPC and Pakistan Poverty Alle-
viation Fund (PPAF) may pave the way to do just that. This year,
this alliance managed to sponsor the athletes’ trip to the London
Paralympics just weeks before the deadline. Hopefully this partnership will last for the long run.
“Pakistan’s Paralympians mirror Pakistan itself. Their strug-
gles display the struggles of our country, their resilience reflects the character of our people and their sheer ability to create miracles with minimal resources, and despite their own disabilities, is so reflective of the true spirit of Pakistanis,” says Beg.T
Learn more about the Paralympians at http://www.facebook.com/NationalParalympicCommitteePakistan The Express Tribune would like to thank Serendip Productions for their assistance in bringing these inspiring stories to light through their
documentary Impossible. AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
Two men stand barefoot in a square patch of upturned earth, their bodies glistening with oil and sweat. At the referee’s signal, they start circling each other, their eyes darting to follow the quick movements of their opponent as they skirt blows and feign attacks. The roar of the crowd, deafening at first, has now begun to recede into the corners of their minds. Breathing quickens, time slows and the world shrinks to just this square patch of earth. And just when the crowd is on its feet with anticipation, they lunge at each other with the force of battering rams and collide.
No longer the rage, desi wrestling and its pehalwans are only a realm of storytellers now who recount the fights of the legends TEXT AND PHOTOS BY AMNA HASSAN
The rest of the match is a blur as they claw at each other to maintain
their grips. Soon Goga Pehalwan overpowers Pappu Pehalwan, pinning him to the floor and emerging as the victor. The fight they have trained months for only lasts a few minutes.
More than thirty years later, Goga Pehalwan sits behind a large wood-
en desk in a factory that manufactures pipes and steel fittings. He now goes by his real name, Mohammad Afzal Lone. He is still a large man,
and years of wrestling have left their mark on him — a crooked nose from an incomplete recovery after suffering a blow, a squashed ear and broken thumbs — injuries which he describes as minor as he profusely thanks God for “never really getting hurt.”
Goga fought by the old codes — on 10 marla dirt squares where fights
were won as soon as you pinned your opponent’s shoulders to the
ground. He represents the last generation of pehalwans who still refuse to acknowledge the new champions that fight on synthetic, padded floors and are judged according to a points system. Desi wrestling, in its purest form, now only exists in the realm of legend.
Goga was lucky enough to wrestle at a time when the sport was at its
peak in a city still known for its wrestlers, Gujranwala. He learnt his
craft in a small akhaara (or wrestling pit) next to the largest graveyard of the inner city.
“Wrestling was the most popular sport back in the ‘70s,” he says.
Sometimes, on his way to Akhaara Rahim Pehalwan, he saw crowds
so big he mistook them for funeral processions heading to the nearby graveyard only to discover they were fans who had come from other cities to watch him practise. “Four or five thousand people would show up just to watch me train a month before a fight. Now you’re lucky if you get five thousand at the match itself,” he says.
He was trained by the legendary Sultani Pehalwan, a master wrestler AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
FEATURE who had lost only one fight in his entire career. Goga remem-
bers waking at half past midnight every night to run 13 miles to the local canal and back. Then he did 3,000 sit-ups and dunds
— a variation of push-ups. When dawn broke, he took a rope attached to a massive cuboid-shaped log, looped it around his neck
and used it to level the soil of the akhaara. “Sometimes, three or
“We started fighting on mattresses,” Goga says, referring to the
harder to drag,” he says.
to fight on soil and on larger grounds, and that’s what we pre-
four men would sit on the wood to weigh it down and make it
On a typical day, he would wrestle with 15 men. When he
wrapped up his gruelling routine, some of his fans would get on
springy floors of the rings, “even though our fans would ask us ferred.”
Then, regulators decided to score matches differently. A fight
bikes and scooters and travel to his opponent’s city to watch him
was now won by the wrestler who accumulated the most points,
“This was a time when people would close down their shops to
the point system came a degree of relaxation. Wrestlers could af-
train and compare their moves.
watch Muhammad Ali box, and he wasn’t even Pakistani,” Goga says, recalling the legendary American boxer’s heyday.
“A wrestling match was like a war between cities,” says Maq-
bool Rabbani, a fan who followed Goga’s career in the ‘70s. “Gujranwala and Multan were the most feared cities.”
not the one who pinned his opponent to the ground first. With ford to lose the first round, because more rounds would follow before the match’s end, and fights lost their sense of urgency. Regulations were changing, and desi wrestlers had to change with them.
With the changes, public interest waned and wrestlers began
At the time, the winding streets of Gujranwala’s inner city
to earn less. Where Goga once earned between Rs200,000 and
be wrestlers, hoping to get a shot at regional and national titles.
Rs25,000 and Rs50,000 for a match that takes place only once
were peppered with akhaaras filled with young boys aspiring to
Stories of their strength spread far and wide, along with ridiculously exaggerated rumours. In many areas, people still believe
Rs300,000 for a national match, wrestlers now earn between a year.
In 1981, when Goga fought Jhara in Lahore, a crowd of 50,000
that a pehalwan from Gujranwala eats an entire roasted lamb in
squeezed into a stadium that had a capacity of 35,000 to see the
Goga dismisses these rumours with a wave of his hand. “I lived
than the massive Jhara, but he had managed to bring their pre-
one go when he trains.
with four brothers, three sisters, a cousin and my parents, and
my mother used to cook one kilogramme of meat for a meal. How big could my share be?” he asks. “I did love eating the parathas my mother made with yoghurt though,” he adds with a smile.
champions fight. Weighing 100 kilos, Goga was 80 kilos lighter vious fight in 1978 to a draw. This time, he lost the title to Jhara
within two minutes. It was one of the last fights to draw such a large, raucous crowd.
Today, it is no longer possible to eke out a living as a wrestler
Ironically, it was the rise of the sport to an international level
and Goga’s sons do not wrestle. He devotes all his time to his fac-
Bulgaria, to participate in a world championship. “It was the
Jhara, who continued to wrestle, died of heart failure at the age
that brought about its downfall. Goga himself went to Sophia, Japanese that got us,” he says. “We could fight with everyone; the Russians, the Hungarians, but not the Japanese.”
tory, and has no protégés to pass on the art of desi wrestling to.
of 29 and could not school anyone.
While Gujranwala still has more akhaaras than any other city,
As Pakistani wrestlers began fighting in international arenas,
most have shut down and two of the largest have been replaced
roped rings with padded floors that foreign wrestlers fought on.
akhaaras that remain. Acha Pehalwan’s son, Riaz Pehalwan, is often
they realised they needed to adjust their moves to suit the small
with a cricket stadium. But some avid young men still haunt the
found practising with other wrestlers from the neighbourhood.
They train on soil like their teachers and forefathers, but fight most of their national matches on what Goga derisively calls “mattresses.”
Despite the declining popularity of wrestling, Gujranwala
remains the city of pehalwans, where matches take place ev-
ery Friday. Even though crowds no longer flock to the fights in thousands, Riaz has hopes for the sport’s revival. He wants to convince Goga, who once held the title of Rustam-e-Punjab, to come to a match and train a few youngsters.
“People will come when they hear his name,” he says, with a
conviction that is hard to argue with. AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
bend it like ... babar? BY WAQAS NAEEM
Ammar Zaheer hurriedly puts on his football shoes and rushes on to the pitch to replace a teammate who’s clearly struggling under the sun. It’s a scorching 43 degrees in Islamabad and the heat crashes upon the small football ground in sector F-6 in an invisible torrent of hot air. 30
A few minutes later, he leaves his defensive position and moves
forward into the opposing box. As the ball flies over the small AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
When you put Pakistan and football in the same sentence, you invariably think of either Lyari (the home of footballers) or Sialkot (the home of footballs). But there is a whole new generation that’s now all kleated up and ready to go
crowd of players huddled in front of the goal, he ducks slightly to time his jump, then rises in the air from the left and heads the ball towards the goal. From six yards in, the keeper barely has time to react as the ball zooms past him and hits home. A brief celebration follows, and Zaheer runs back, shouting orders to his players to reorganise quickly.
Zaheer is the captain of Red Devils FC — a team he formed with
his cousins and friends in 2007. He takes on the mantle of cap-
tain after his hours from work as senior executive at Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Limited.
Zaheer and his teammates are prime examples of a subculture
of amateur football players that has developed in some of the
larger cities of Pakistan in recent years. From Karachi to Faisalabad and Rawalpindi, these hobbyist footballers are either stu-
dents at private educational institutions or young professionals
the Hamdard Public School in Karachi. After finishing school, he
formed his own team called FC Strikers with neighbourhood kids in Karimabad, Federal B Area.
“Football has really picked up among youngsters in recent
years because people have had more exposure to the sport on television than ever before,” says Khan.
Before 1999, Pakistan Television was the only source for Paki-
belonging to the upper middle class, and they religiously take
stanis to watch international football competitions. Then the
“Back when we started in 2007, there would be one tourna-
diences to watch foreign television channels. But foreign chan-
time out to play club football.
ment every three or four months,” Zaheer says. “Nowadays there
are so many tournaments that we have to choose which ones to play and which ones to leave.”
It’s no idle boast. Zaheer’s Red Devils played 16 tournaments in
Rawalpindi and Islamabad in 2011 — all privately organised — of which they won seven. The prize money of a big tournament, typically between Rs18,000 and Rs25,000, is an added incentive
for amateur teams that usually pay Rs2,000 to 4,000 as entry
satellite dish service arrived and became the avenue for local aunels truly became ubiquitous when cable was introduced in Paki-
stan. Television cable would show specialised sports channels that broadcast European domestic leagues, especially the English Premier League on weekends and the Spanish La Liga late at night.
But where talent and interest in football are surging, there are
not enough opportunities to match up with them.
“Pindi has a lot of football players, but we don’t have proper
facilities,” laments Umair Tariq, a 22-year-old Mass Communica-
ing football players and have teams regularly competing at in-
and a member of their football team.
Schools are becoming important breeding grounds for aspir-
ter-school tournaments. Daniyal Naeem, a 17-year-old A-levels
tions student at the National University of Sciences & Technology There are three grounds in the city that are used for football,
student in Karachi, was only in the 8th grade when he formed
but locals mostly travel to Islamabad to play seven-a-side matches
recalls that they weren’t really good in the beginning, but like
for 90 minutes and Rs2,500 if they play under lights at the facil-
a football team named CF Blitz with his school fellows. Naeem all amateur footballers in Pakistan, they had no recourse but to rigorously practise by themselves to improve their game.
And like Naeem, 19-year-old Ans Khan also developed an inter-
est in football in school when he was in the 4th grade and his school team competed in an annual football tournament held at
at the small but popular F-6 football ground. Teams pay Rs1,500 ity run by the Capital Development Authority.
Hussain Ali, a groundskeeper who managed the facility as
a private contractor until the CDA took over a year ago, says
the ground hosts around 20 matches per week and generates a monthly revenue of around Rs100,000.
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
“Football has really picked up among youngsters in recent years because people have had more exposure to the sport on television than ever before,” says Khan The average ground in Karachi also costs around Rs1,000 per
game and the price goes up for grounds with better facilities.
Luckily for the sport, corporations are now cashing in on the
growing popularity of football. Brand names have attached them-
selves to local football teams and are also sponsoring events, such
as the 2o12 Zong United Kickoff Tournament, in which 32 kids won a chance to go to the Manchester United soccer school in Abu
Dhabi for a five-day training programme, and the Pepsi football tournament simultaneously launched in three cities in June.
While club football has gained traction among urban, upper
class youth, and stirred the interest of corporate bigwigs, football continues to be a poor man’s sport to a large extent. The divide
between amateur and professional football in Pakistan seems to be drawn along class lines. The rich are playing the game for leisure, and the poor are struggling to get a decent future through football.
For this reason, skeptics continue to doubt any major break-
through in domestic or national level football.
Riaz Ahmed, an administrator at Karachi United Football
Foundation, says amateur footballers would never focus on making football their career because they are deterred by factors such
as parental pressure, economic uncertainty, politics and nepo-
play sports for fun, but if kids get more interested in football, they step in saying it will interfere with their studies,” he says.
And when it’s difficult to eke out a living playing football, with
tism in the existing system, and thus only play for enjoyment.
professional club-level players getting paid as little as Rs1,000
scene, he says.
salary, it’s hard to convince the parents otherwise.
This will do nothing for Pakistan’s domestic or national football Even Muhammad Zaman, president of the Mehran football
study or get more lucrative jobs. “Parents are okay if their kids
per match and department football paying Rs20,000 in monthly It is no wonder then that most full-time players in this country
club — a registered professional club that plays in the official
are people from lower-income backgrounds, who are looking to
commit themselves only part time, and eventually go abroad to
department footballers, says Ahsan Ali, chief editor of Football-
Islamabad district football league, asserts that amateur players AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
secure a stable income and job security through employment as
“The idea is that if kids from underdeveloped areas get a chance to focus on football as a profession and undergo training, they can improve their future,” says Riaz
find other sources of income.
Hussain almost got commissioned in the Army on a football
quota in the ‘90s, but the deal went kaput in the final stages. Hussain now runs a garments shop in Rawalpindi’s Saddar market. But he has clung on to his passion for football as he sells football jerseys now, which go for Rs700 to Rs1,200 apiece. In the five years since he started selling football jerseys, he says he has sold
400 to 500 shirts every year — testimony to the growing popularity of football in Pakistan.
To give the sport a real boost, civil society has launched initia-
tives aimed at promoting football talent at the grassroots level.
The Karachi United Football Foundation, a nonprofit entity, runs
six centres in Karachi that provide football training to under-14 players.
“The idea is that if kids from underdeveloped areas get a chance
to focus on football as a profession and undergo training, they can improve their future,” says Riaz. Pakistan.com, a website that is easily the most comprehensive resource for football news in the country.
Departments, such as Wapda, Army, KRL and Karachi Port
These training centres also provide education support, voca-
tional training and health awareness, in case these children do not go on to become professional footballers.
The foundation’s attempts are certainly noble, but they miss
Trust, have sizable sports budgets and offer match fees for tour-
out on the talent in the amateur football circuit. FootballPaki-
up from professional football clubs. Departments dominate pro-
change that situation.
naments and permanent jobs to football players, who are picked
fessional football in Pakistan; 11 of the 16 teams that participated
stan.com’s Ahsan insists reforms at the professional level might “Football needs to move away from departments to city-based
in the 2011 Pakistan Premier League were department teams. But
teams,” he says. “We need to have public-corporate partnerships
for stable income and the job security it offers. Those who fail to
transparency, and coverage to football.” Only then will people
not every club player makes the cut, because so many are vying make it to the department level, like Sabir Hussain, are left to
and media involvement in the domestic game to bring money, from well-off backgrounds start taking football seriously.
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
shines through Determined to turn around the destinies of children forced to drop out of school only because of poverty, Karachi-based NGO HOPE’s home schools offer a solution
BY RAHAT KAMAL
Most children dread the thought of waking up for school, but Saira Sattar is not like most children, nor is her school like most others. “Every morning I love to wake up to the thought that I am actu-
ally going to school,” says an excited Saira as she jots down the latest maths lesson from the blackboard.
She is a student of class five at a free-of-cost home school run
by the NGO Health-Oriented Preventive Education (HOPE). If not
for this school, situated in Karachi’s Mujahid Colony, Saira would
spend her days loitering on the streets like millions of other impoverished children in Pakistan.
“I used to dream of going to school and becoming a teacher
when I grew up, but I thought it would never happen. Now I feel
it will all come true,” says Saira. Just a few years ago, even enter-
taining such a thought would have been impossible for Saira and those who, like her, are simply unable to afford even basic education. Now, things are different.
In 2006, HOPE set up an ‘informal’ schooling system for the
destitute and now it runs 200 home schools from Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the north of Pakistan all the way south to Thatta and Karachi. It’s informal in that the
classes are held not in purpose-built buildings but in the homes of the local communities. AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
There’s a reason for that. “It’s undeniably impressive to have a
large well-equipped school building, but it requires a lot of invest-
ment,” says Dr Mubina Agboatwalla, the chairperson of HOPE. “By saving on the cost of the school we can actually spend more on
widening the reach of education. In Rs35,000 per annum we can teach 35 children, so in just Rs1,000, a child can be educated for a whole year and get a chance to turn his life around. It also takes
away the hesitancy of a donor who, in a meagre amount, can see the result right in front of his eyes,” she says.
By saving on infrastructure, HOPE also manages to focus more
on the quality of the teachers, who are handpicked and appointed after a thorough assessment and trial. Every year the teachers are also sent for training so that they can further hone their skills.
The goal, says Agboatwalla, is to initiate a new system of learning
that understands the reasons that so many children do not attend school.
Eight-year-old Muzammil Hussain would be one such child if
it weren’t for this project. After only three months of attending a
regular school, his father told him he couldn’t manage to pay the fees anymore. Muzammil was forced to leave school and trade his
pencils for a knife, as his father got him a job cutting onions with a neighbourhood cook. It seemed, says Muzammil, that he would
never again have the chance to go to school or ever study again. But then he heard of the home school programme and nervously
approached his father. To his relief, once his father learned that
no fees were needed, he happily allowed Muzammil to join the school. Though he still works after school, Muzammil knows he
won’t be a kitchen helper for the rest of his life. “As long as my father doesn’t have to pay any fees and I keep working after school
time, I can keep coming to school. This way my father is happy, and so am I,” he adds with a giggle.
The lack of fees is only one incentive, however. Another is that
HOPE schools are quite literally at your doorstep. “Formal schools are generally far off and there’s only one government school per area, which means that all the children cannot be accommodated,” says Agboatwalla.
She adds that the problem is exacerbated when it comes to fe-
male students whose parents don’t allow them to commute longer
distances. Given that constructing enough formal schools in every
goth, mohalla and village is impossible, the ability to have many home schools scattered around the same locality make it a cost effective model with a wider reach.
This wider dispersal of schools also means that links with lo-
cal communities are strengthened; something that in Saira’s case was of great importance. For her father, who works as a fruit vendor, it wasn’t enough that there were no fees to pay. He also wanted Saira to work as a domestic servant and contribute to the family income.
This, says Farzana Tanveer, a local teacher running her own
home school, is where the teachers step in. “To deal with such
AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
problems we counsel the parents and make them realise that sending their child to school is the right decision by quoting examples
from their own lives,” says Farzana. “And because we know everyone personally, we are able to convince them properly.”
Thirteen-year-old Anees Mustafa is one of the brightest children
in Farzana’s class and is working hard towards his dream of be-
coming a cricketer just like his hero Shahid Afridi, so that he too can make his nation proud. Unlike many of the other children,
Anees is lucky to have parents who support his quest to study. “My father is very happy to see me study, and he doesn’t have to worry about paying my fees every month. He says that if I study I will
become a better person and make something out of my life,” he adds with visible pride.
Along with the children, the home schools are also changing
the lives of the teachers for the better. “When we go to these localities we always find that there are many women who are edu-
cated and want to work but, because of cultural restraints, they are unable to do so. An opportunity to teach from their own house is a perfect way to earn and make the most of their talent,” says Agboatwalla.
The lack of fees is only one incentive. Another is that HOPE schools are quite literally at your doorstep
That’s exactly what the case was with Farzana, a mother of
four who had done her FSC and Primary Teacher Course. She had always wanted to teach but having gotten married immediately after completing her course, she found that her husband didn’t
allow her to leave the house to work. So when HOPE approached
them she was more than happy to accept. Now every morning she opens her doors to the 35 children who come to her home school.
“I believe if I am able to successfully educate even one child,
I have achieved something in my life, made use of my talent
and become a link in a chain that will keep on bringing positive change,” she says.
Eighteen-year-old Zarina Muhammad Ali was another young
woman looking for an opportunity to give something back to her
society and make the most of her education. Just like Farzana, all her requests to be allowed to teach at a local school were denied, even though her family could barely make ends meet. “Now I can
do what I always wanted to right from home. There is just one earning member in my family and ten mouths to feed, making it
difficult to survive. At least now I can take care of my own needs with my salary,” she says.
With success stories like these, the feedback that this pro-
gramme is getting is overwhelming. Parents are happy that their
children are getting a free education at the homes of women who they know and trust, and educated women whose potential would otherwise have been wasted can earn an honest wage. The model
is also a great example of community empowerment, where local
people work together for the greater good of all. “It’s heartwarming to see people realising the importance of education and learning to put in their share to change the face and fate of their com-
munity,” says Agboatwalla. AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
fifty shades of groan BY NOMAN ANSARI
Which series has sold over 40 million copies worldwide and overtaken Harry Potter as well as The Da Vinci Code to become the fastest selling paperback in countries like the United Kingdom? Fifty Shades of Grey, of course. The book is classified as erotic fiction, where I am sure the word ‘erotic’ is used in the loosest sense of the word. If erotic passages are meant to induce an almost impossible combination of disbelief, cringing and inadvertent hilarity then, by all means, Fifty Shades of Grey is the most erotic novel ever written. Frankly, until now, I did not think it was possible to wince, laugh, and grind my teeth at same time. There is also no doubt that the book is fictional because it requires a suspension of disbelief that I believe the human mind isn’t dull enough to manage. I am not sure who the 40 million people who purchased this book are, but either the US is experimenting with fresher ways to torture those being held for terrorism or Fifty Shades of Grey is really popular with the stoner crowd. The book is told from the perspective of a 22-year-old college student Anastasia “Ana” Steele who, while doing a favour for her friend Katherine Kavanagh, meets 27-year-old businessman Christian Grey and they develop a mutual attraction. After a longwinded courtship, they eventually become involved in a more physical relationship. Initially, their physical interactions are limited to regular sexual play. Ana, who has little sexual experience, not even solo, finds Christian irresistible, and through him reaches a sexual awakening. But things get out of control when they turn to BDSM. To his credit, Christian is very receptive to Ana’s physical needs and is both attentive and successful at sexually pleasing Ana. Unfortunately, as a male reader, that’s the only positive or realistic thing I can say about this character. Other than that, what Fifty Shades of Grey has taught me is that I would have to be incredibly handsome, in peak physical condition, a billionaire, a philanthropist, able to fluently speak foreign languages, be trained at flying aircrafts, be the world’s best lover and, on top of all that, be impressively endowed, to attract Ana. Yes, I’d essentially have to be Batman. But while the depiction of Christian Grey as some sort of superhuman can be perfectly acceptable as a woman’s fantasy, his characterisation makes him quite unlikable. Not only is Christian emotionally distant, rude and gloomy, he is manipulative and borderline psychotic in stalking Ana. And for a man in charge of a huge company, he seems to spend little time actually working. On the other hand, Ana is even less likable as a highly neurotic and insecure woman, who has never been romantically interested in another person until she found someone like Christian who only
appeals to her on a superficial level. Fifty Shades of Grey is poorly written, and that too to a surprising degree. Twice, I stopped reading to check if I had been duped in my purchase or whether I was reading an authentic eBook. This isn’t surprising given that this first novel in the trilogy by British author EL James began as erotic fan fiction for the Twilight saga. Aside from the poor characterisation, the author did not do her research properly and used plenty of British colloquialisms that sound odd being spoken by the book’s American characters. Worse still are the words and phrases that repeat themselves with such frequency, including 58 counts of the term ‘inner goddess’, that I wonder if the 41 author set shortcuts for common phrases on her keyboard. AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
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42 AUGUST 26-SEPTEMBER 1 2012
BY HASSAN SIDDIQUI www.facebook.com/HScomics