Ijaz Ahmed Khan – a great man of valor.

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Perhaps, I met Mr. Ijaz Ahmed Khan once or twice in my life. It was enough to change my life…

It was a freezing cold rainy day, when I drove over in my Alto, to his office with my daughter Waliya.  IMG_0272

I had left, my husband admitted in CMH, in the competent hands of Nadiya who had just arrived from England. We had gone to Mr. Ijaz’s office to discuss our situation. To our surprise, we found out that my eldest brother-in-law had already tried to get our in-complete house on his name. It felt as if the roof over my head and the ground under my feet was slipping away. A husband suffering the last stages of cancer, and here  I was left to fend for myself and my children in the worst of circumstances.

There were several other angels in my life too, who worked day and night to help me.  But primarily, it was Ijaz Khan who made sure no one could touch the roof over our heads.

It came to my mind, what a maid once said to me  in Karachi, in 1989:

‘Had it not been for the bad people in this world, how would we know the good people?’

That is exactly, how I met Ijaz Ahmed Khan.

Due to the bad people;

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Ijaz Ahmed Khan didn’t know us personally. However, he didn’t give them any importance. So they prepared a ‘case’ complete with notes from Tehsildar of their area. They threatened him with cases against him and the organization.  Ijaz Khan remained unshaken. I was busy in hospital  desperately trying to stay in control of the situation.

Four of my husbands’ siblings succeeded in getting the banks closed in my husband’s lifetime. They also got hold of life insurance and education insurance portions.

It is interesting, how, my in-laws got the bank frozen at a time, when my husband was ill needing treatment. (How and why would a client want to close a bank at such a time?) The bank manager Marium didn’t care.

Sadly, there aren’t enough Ijaz Khans in most offices to ‘know’ that something is wrong, nor to have the guts to support the aggrieved family!

Only Ijaz Ahmed Khan stood by us.  He, alone supported my girls and myself. (Those same siblings hid the inherited belongings of my husband from his family, along with those lands which my father-in-law had personally put in our names.)

After my husband’s death in January 2012, I was deep in struggles, and didn’t get a chance to meet Mr. Ijaz Khan to thank him properly. When finally I did go, in 2016, I found out that he had passed away, a few months back.

I was very disturbed and went to meet his family. His wife, Roohi told me that when my case had come to his office, he was very upset. He said I’ll support this family being bullied at such a time in their lives.  ‘I don’t care what happens.’38840012_2090932307606717_1289979107932635136_n

‘What if you lose your job?’ Roohi had asked.

‘I don’t care if I lose my job. I cannot sit by and watch such things happening!’ He had answered.

While other companies including EFU, Banks, holding my husband’s assets were totally confused, this organization (MPCHS) was clear.  It was clear due to its worthy president, Ijaz Ahmed Khan.

Sure enough the litigations went ahead, the defense carried on for four-and-a-half years. Finally, I had to agree to give my in-laws 1135 Kanals of agricultural lands, in our names (which was totally un-Islamic, but condoned by all and sundry here.)

When I had gone to the office of the MPCHS President, Ijaz Ahmed Khan, he had picked up the phone and asked Arsalan, the man in-charge of of security near my house, to take special care. To this day, they give me special attention. So, at a time, when my own so-called flesh and blood were striving against me, total strangers were like angels setting my world right-side-up!

This is how Allah helps.

After he passed away, Ijaz Ahmed Khan’s wife told me that many people had come for condolences, telling her of the ways in which he had gone out of his way to help them.

In fact, I remember, once as I sat in his office, I had mentioned that I’m trying to educate my staff, but it is difficult to find the time daily to teach them. He suggested keeping a tutor to teach one’s staff. He said, ‘this is what I do.’ To this day, their staff is taught by a tutor.

A man of character and commitment is a man from whom you learn how to live. Within those brief moments that I was in his office, I learnt a lot. I wonder how many other homes are blessed due to the fact that their lives were touched by a man like Ijaz Ahmed Khan?

May Allah bless his soul, and may his family be blessed, as he blessed other people’s families.

Ijaz Khan’s son, Salman told me how his father had given up his career in the army, due to  his mother being alone. He joined IBA – the most prestigious educational institution in Karachi – and came out of it, as a gold medalist. He spent most of his life in Lahore and Islamabad. He retired as Deputy Managing Director Overseas Employment Corporation.

Around 1999, while still in service, he had starting helping out his friends in Police Foundation Islamabad, and MPCHS. After retirement, he took over and revived MPCHS (Multi Professional Cooperative Housing Scheme.) He worked diligently in its colonies in E-11/1, E-11/3 and B-17. He was the one who got them out of the initial struggles of embezzlement of resources, with court cases and hardly any funds, due to people absconding with the money. He was the one to make MPCHS one of the most well managed living areas of Islamabad. So, he worked for MPCHS  till 2016 when he passed away, while being the President of MPCHS.

Gen. Saeed uz Zafar, who was his course-mate as a cadet in PMA,  has very fond words for him, saying ‘though he had left the army before passing out, he remained in touch with his course-mates. He would always attend the parties and gatherings of old friends. He was greatly respected for his honesty, and integrity.’

He passed away quite suddenly, on 8th January 2016. Salman mentions that very often when he goes with his family to his fathers’grave, they find fresh flowers there, which might have been placed by someone. It would be natural to visit the grave of the one who has made a difference in one’s life. When I spoke to Mrs. Roohi Ijaz, she mentioned how tough it is to live without such a man, and how much she misses him.

Check back tomorrow to see part two of this post and to see how Ijaz Ahmed Khan inspired  our trees plantation project.

 

Stay blessed, and keep blessing others. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Blessings of Domestic Help.

Domestic help in Pakistan, and this region (India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Gulf States,) are a point of discussion all round. This is so because they are an integral part of our lives. Like them or not, we can’t live without them. Driver, servant, maid, gardener, cleaning maid, cook, guard – you name it we have it. If not many, almost everyone has at least one who does it all.

Most of my married life, I’ve kept part-time help, as I find them less nerve wracking and easier on the pocket. When there is no help, I declare, ‘we are living abroad!’. All of us put on full blast music wherever we are in the house and enjoy while we work. So, it’s ok. Presently, God has been very kind, more so due to my parents, who have become so old and weak that I need twenty-four hour help taking care of them.

Continue reading “Blessings of Domestic Help.”

Joy of Charity Work

 

Somehow, you always receive more than you give!

This topic is so close to my heart, I don’t know where to start! I suppose charity begins with empathy. Yet there are so many beginnings to it.

Why give charity? It can be any of these reasons:

  1. To help others out of their dilemmas.
  2. To thank Allah for all that He has blessed you with.
  3. It is the best way to bring your own problems into perspective.
  4. It is the best anti-depressant, and diffuser of sadness. An instant mood booster.
  5. A financial booster. (I’ll explain in a while.)

Continue reading “Joy of Charity Work”

Sustainable Development Conference – 2017

Attending one of my favorite conferences…

SDPI:

Almost every December since 2005, I have attended the annual three-day conference of SDPI. This year the theme was: Seventy Years of Development-  The Way Forward, it was held on December 5,6th and 7th . I just love going there, it is a great experience. The director Uzma T. Haroon makes a point of inviting me every time. I respect her writing abilities a lot.

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So, this year she asked me to be a panelist for Art as a Resistance against Oppression, also to put up a presentation at the session on Promoting gender equality: Icons of Feminism in South Asia.  My presentation was on Icons of Feminism in Pakistan during first 70 years: Suggestions for the Future. Happily I agreed, as both the subjects were close to my heart.

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During the art session, it was truly an honor to sit next to icons like the Urdu writer Kishwar Naheed, Actor and DG of PNCA, Jamal Shah. I’ve interviewed both for Dawn many years ago.

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24900079_1764513226915295_8850702260152814216_nSheema Kirmani the awesome classical dancer and actor was also there, among other icons.  Right before the discussion, we were informed that each panelist will speak for ten minute on the subject and  the first speaker was of course Shireen Gheba! I mean, to come unprepared, because you think it’s a discussion, and then to have to speak for ten minutes at such a forum! – Well, once I get started, usually there is no stopping me. So, I shared my thoughts: that one of the greatest persons using his art as resistance against oppression was Allama Iqbal. We Pakistanis are a witness to how meaningful his work was when he actually convinced the people of the Sub-Continent of India to rise for their freedom. Uzma made this video as I spoke:

Each one of us is living in this free country thanks to the inspiring poetry of Iqbal and leadership of Quaid-e-Azam.

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Then of course, after Pakistan came into exhistance seventy years ago, there were many great artists who used art as a resistance against oppression which included Sadequein, and later on poetry of Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Habib Jaleb. Sheema Kirmani has given amazing classical dance performances against oppression of women, Jamal Shah in his television dramas and film productions and Kishwar Naheed through her writings and poetry. Though many speakers didn’t agree with me, but each one sprouted out Iqbal’s Urdu poetry to make their points! – Not surprising, Iqbal’s poetry being what it is!

So, SDPI conferences are usually three days of four concurrent sessions which take place simultaneously for three slots daily: 9.30 – 11.30 am, 12.00 pm – 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm – 5.00 pm. The venue is Marriot – a four star hotel – of Islamabad. The food is lavish and hundreds of people attend the sessions. Each session has panelists who are the gurus in the fields chosen for discussion. Then the audience is also very well read and accomplished, so the subsequent discussion is interesting. Everyone can participate with their questions, and connect with the speakers later during the tea or lunch session. What I really like most of all is the way the whole conference is organized  with  patience, efficiency and punctuality.

The presentations were in the evening session, and mine was on ‘Icons of Feminism in Pakistan during first 70 years: Suggestions for the Future.’  I was given ten minutes and Nathelene Reynalds was over-all incharge of that session. Sheema Kirmani was chairing it. The Nepalese Bandana was very elequent and she rounded off the session at the end – along with Sheema Kirmani. Everyone spoke with great passion about the plight of women in Pakistan and in South Asia. Sheema specially pointed out the plight of the minority women.

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My ninety year old dad insisted on coming to my presentation. It was great having him there. Of course, my daughter Waliya brought him over along with our helper Sabir.

 

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On the last day I attended two sessions, Roundtable on Labor Unions, and next one was on Water Stewardship and Research Initiatives in Pakistan. It was really upsetting to see the situation of the laborers in our country. I had gone there, to get information for one of my upcoming books. Each speaker made one realize how bleak the situation has been. Also, that the European Union has had a very positive effect on the situation and their pressure on our government has made things bearable for our laborers. But the fact remains, situation is bleak, and needs all the attention possible. Many of the laborers do not actually receive the lowest rate of wages which is Rs.15000 per month. Most have to manage within Rs.12000 only. Pays at the manager level are slightly better, but these too are not enough.

It was the same with the water situation in Pakistan, ‘Water Stewardship and Research Initiatives in Pakistan’.

I learnt about ‘drip-irrigation’ and how effective it is. How there are organizations which are actually helping the farmer with research and development of new and effective methods. The Nestle company is doing a lot in this field too, as they had initiated this session of SDPI on water. Hydro-electric power and use of water storage and rain water storage was talked about too.

24900062_1765477873485497_5501286247848828542_nHelga was there too in the audience, she is a German residing in Islamabad, who has done a lot in this field. She even helped a village use biogas as source of energy.  There was Rina Saeed Khan who is a journalist and one of the panelists. (Later on I bought her book ‘From Mountains to Mangroves – protecting Pakistan’s Natural Heritage.’) There was a person from Nepal telling us it isn’t easy there either. One of them informed me that though the Islamabad water table has got lowered, it still isn’t as low as it is in Lahore where you have to do boring till around 700 feet below ground level. The need for educating the masses to save water at all levels, was deeply felt. One of the SDPI members even gifted me a book of theirs. They are all so dedicated and sincere in their efforts. We, the people of this city and the country should be active also.

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Tariq Buneri who founded this wonderful organization and is settled in Utah, USA now, was there at the sessions. Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri is the Executive Director, SDPI. Their sincere efforts are evident in the smooth manner in which such a complicated conference is carried out so efficiently. It was heartening to find students from universities attending, along with these girls from Islamic University.

24796357_1765478096818808_8642221238715809603_nMany housewives, lecturers, and government officials are usually present at these sessions. It is time we all got out of the shopping craze to come to such conferences and see where our country is actually going. It is important to find out where we stand in comparison with our neighboring countries. To meet their intellectuals and compare notes.  It is also heartening to find common problems, also eye opening to see how they are combatting the problems of trade, communication systems, water, electricity, health and education.

Through the sessions skype talks were also initiated, which mostly fizzled out due to connection issues.

24796479_1765478420152109_9030564670212327562_n However, the one on the closing ceremony was successful with Ms. Shamshad giving a detailed talk. (Some of us wished there was a skype issue here too, as it was getting a bit long,) Anyhow, the next speech by Mushahid Husain was interesting. His speech was a breath of fresh air; giving a very optimistic picture of our region in the upcoming months and years. He informed everyone of the number of projects already on the way, which include the new Islamabad Airport, the CPEC roads and many other projects. There is a bright future ahead, do not be dismayed.

Previously, I’ve attended invigorating sessions on Media, attended by the late Agha Nasir. I’ve seen Muneeza Hashmi and Salima Hashmi in such programs. The late Khwaja Masood the great educationist also often chaired many memorable sessions on Education. I’ve heard him saying, ‘you all have read history – I’ve lived it!’ – he was around eighty-four years old then. I often meet the great Shamsul-mulk at these sessions, his complexion glows more with every year. Also, some of my favorite speakers were  Haroon Sharif, Bandana, Sheema Kirmani, Rina Khan and  Kishwar Naheed.

I make a point of attending such conferences or workshops through which I learn more about what is going on. These are eye openers. What is interesting is to meet like-minded people at such places, and share experiences. Also it gives one a better outlook as to what is going on. Instead of sitting at home, and making bleak conclusions it is better to go out and find out for yourself. There is a lot of hope and when it is hopeless, you know what is to be done. See, where you can make a difference.

We all still have some life left in us, let’s make the most of it, to leave this world a bit better than we found it. I’ve never regretted going to such functions.

Never. When you go, try to sit in the front row, ask questions, participate, and come out wiser.

Stay blessed, my dear Reader. Let us be very selective with our time, such opportunities of attending conferences need to be availed.

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Photographs taken and provided by author, and with thanks from Waliya Najib and Uzma T. Haroon. (video by Uzma.)

 

 

 

 

World disability day

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Each one of us has a responsibility towards them

A couple of years ago, I had a first-hand experience of what it means to be ‘disabled’.  I had fallen from two steps, in the school where I taught English.
The doctors said, that I need knee replacement operation within a week if possible. It was too big a shock for me, also my students’ final exams were round the corner, so I decided to postpone the operation till the summer vacations. I suffered a lot of pain at every step, and had to use a stick or wheelchair. I had to walk with a very strange gait. I still went for my trip to Dubai and Abu Dhabi because everything had already been arranged and paid for.

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Labor Day – a tribute to laborers in Pakistan.

Laborers I got to know…..

In 2010 when my husband and I moved into this locality, it was a relatively new colony. -Lots of construction going on all round. There was dust in the air and more laborers seen around here, than the residents. Watching these laborers working and walking around, holding their fearful looking equipment or just like that, made one a bit afraid of them. If my husband had to go out of town, I’d refuse to spend even a night in our home. I’d pack our stuff in our car, and drive off to my parents’ home in Bahria Town. No, I wasn’t going to stay in our home, with all those terrifying laborers living around us! There was crime too. Burglaries, and what not, and one invariably felt that it could have been the laborers, living in most houses under construction.

Continue reading “Labor Day – a tribute to laborers in Pakistan.”