There is pain that this city carries so gracefully, there is guilt and there is shame, there is inevitable doom that sways in her eyes, there is a wish for peace, and there is hope.
I’ve travelled long and I’ve known a great number of people; I’ve known giants in beds made out of picked straws, destined, in their own selves, to live ordinary lives, I’ve known small men inline to inherit big, I’ve known cobblers with high boots, and I’ve known lovers bound to spend loveless lives. We are, as people, indulged in hearing and telling stories for how else can we identify ourselves? Like drops in the ocean, cities too are made out of something equally and individually insignificant – people. And everyone has a story to tell.
Paris was something else. To try to describe her would be the death of a poet for how can you describe something indescribable. Good, though, that I’m no poet, it’s just that everything she does is poetry. I had never seen anyone like her before. She was like waves of calm winds, like a tornado of pain and roses, capable of the most beautiful destruction. She walked with her head hung low, dressed in the darkest colors yet carrying the sun in her eyes like it was nothing. She was reckless like the love she pretended she didn’t carry with herself. She was the rise and fall of heavens and she was the measure of time the world set their clocks to. And her eyes, my Lord, her eyes carried timeless darkness with, but not so, a crooked tunnel spiraling its way to comfort at last. I remember the fist time our eyes met: I stopped, but so did the time, and then reality cascaded upon me, so much so, I lost myself for the first time in my life. And that’s where the trouble began. And in her smile I found assurance of a thousand years. She smiled with her eyes closed, flawless but responsible, free but not so. She liked crop tops and ropers, she had hair like that of a raven’s, and her favorite color was dancing.
From the very start I knew Paris was not meant for me. Her mere grace overshadowed everything I held trophy in my life. She was strong and kind, humble and smart, and she was everything a man could ask for. But men, my Lord, men don’t survive gusts of wind and Paris was a storm. Men don’t survive sparks of comment and Paris was hellfire. She was everything right with the world and I was just another man. The stars lived in her eyes and the horizon started and ended with her. She was magnificent and, oh, how gracefully she carried that broken heart. I knew the moment I saw her that I might burn but I had to edge a little closer.
She could wrap the skies around her waist, create a man and destroy him but all she did was listen to his lies and then drink them away. I got close, so much so, I could almost touch her soul. There was pain inside her and confusion, there was guilt inside her and there was lost trust, there was a need of redemption, and there was hope. For a heart I had never felt before, she seemed strangely related. Only after I got to know her, I realized that like second skin, she wore her past and could not let go of things she had done not too long ago. Her past sins had imprisoned her. It had made her believe that she deserved everything that was happening to her. This strange balance of judgement loomed over her; this cloud of guilt followed her and made her believe that she has to repay all of her past errors in full. This idea of redemption had left her hollow and fragmented. She used to tell me that she’s just fine and that she’s happy with whatever she has in her life but she was a pretender – smiling in the mirror telling herself she’s okay now without knowing that mirrors don’t reflect broken hearts.
The time I spent with her feels like decades over decades. Everytime I met her, I saw more of myself in her and so I stayed. Longer than I usually do. I stayed to give this soul another chance at being free and this heart one reason to beat. And then I lost myself.
Her body, delicate, spiraled into waves of new and old, all at once, and then not at all. She was lean and perfect and moved like she knew no laws. What had lost all meaning suddenly meant something to me. That was the magic of Paris, she could carve roses out of stone and men out of themselves. That day the mountains begged of her and the oceans, the eyes of men and the nights of sin; for the sake of ache and greed and the poets that buried her into their pages, she was asked to let go. And when she did, I remembered no words and her body spoke all languages.
She loved another man, though, and I refused to believe her. I assumed how I wanted her to feel and she let me for that’s how Paris was: kind, maybe a little too much. All my life I had lived alone – walking with people I knew would take a separate path when they would – and maybe that’s why I loved Paris. I saw myself in her. I had always known my way through people, I knew how to talk them, confuse them, and manipulate them. I knew how to get inside their heads, make them tell me their stories and lessons they had never told anyone before. I knew what they were hiding and why they were hiding it. I knew everything but how to love someone. I took her for just another girl and she let me until her conscious refused to allow it anymore. I can’t remember the number of times I had told her to take a stand and she did take a stand. And when she did, it broke my heart.
Maybe in another lifetime and in another world, I will see her again and I hope things are better when we do. But for now, I will have to live the life I’ve carved for myself. This house that I’ve bricked out of broken promises, guilty pleasures, temporary faces, privilege, and selfishness I have to suffice until I rise again. Paris will be just fine. I know she will soon lay down a line of victories and memories over my traces and she will soon forget that there was a boy who roamed around the very streets now so frequently used by new faces. I know a time will come when the city shimmers with news of settling down and peace will ring at last. And I know one day the fragments of that someone will the very air the city breathes but for only a second before it vanishes into oblivion. Paris will soon forget my name but I’ll remember hers. I will remember how she used to smile that smile with her eyes closed, I will remember her voice and her broken accent, I will remember every single time she rolled her eyes at me, and I will remember her as she was the first time I saw her dancing her pain away.
I’ll probably never love another but I pray she does. I pray she finds someone capable enough to write her smile into poetry, read her eyes into poetry, and kiss her lips into poetry. For it doesn’t really matter if she belongs to me or someone else, as long as she belongs to poetry.
About the writer: Shahzaib Awan currently heads the Bisouv Publications and House of Entremuse Media Group. He writes for Times, The Guardian, The Nation, and other prominent newspapers. He’s currently studying Computer Science at Jacobs University, Germany. You can find him on Twitter and Facebook.
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Pakistan’s toxic relationship with mullahism
Many argue that mullahism is a school of thought. It maybe, but only in a world where schools encourage violence against those who beg to differ, those who follow another religion, and those who wear jeans.
There is no concept of priesthood in Islam. There is no criteria of attire or appearance in Islam. And there is no pass to use the name of God for political, social, or financial gains in Islam. How come, one wonders then, the mullah has crept into the very framework of the constitution of Pakistan, so much so, he has the country by her throat?
“Wear a mask if you have to, but mosques will stay open”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the country’s top clerics, holier-than-thou, have refused to close down mosques amid the spread of COVID-19, which has brought the world to her knees – infecting 620,000 and killing 28,000, but why hasn’t the government, one asks himself, rebuffed their imbecile idea?
Mullah school of thought
Many argue that mullahism is a school of thought. It maybe, but only in a world where schools encourage violence against those who beg to differ, those who follow another religion, and those who wear jeans. And a mullah, by definition, is a man who closes his eyes to every atrocity, oppression, and sin in the world except when it causes him discomfort. He is usually identified by his absolute lack of remorse, complete denial of logic, and blind following – not of God, but of those he thinks are closer to God because they wear a beard and abuse the government on live television.
The novel coronavirus
The novel coronavirus is highly contagious and spreads from person to person in close proximity. It has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization, which has also asked people to self-isolate in order to halt the spread of the coronavirus. In Pakistan, the coronavirus-related cases have jumped from 7 to 1,408 in mere 19 days and health experts have warned that the cases can top at least 20 million if strict measures aren’t put into place. Although the provincial governments have accelerated their efforts to tackle to the spread of the coronavirus, the center refuses to halt its populist stance.
Bogus party, selection of the most naive
It’s an open secret that Imran Khan could only win the premiership with the help of the invisible force, one of whose election tactics were to establish a bogus far-right political party with so many votes that it wouldn’t win any seats, but would be able to break a decisive section of votes, which would ultimately tilt of the polls in Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s favor. The tactic worked and we have a puppet for a prime minister. The bogus party, of course, was Khadim Rizvi’s Tehreek-e-Labaik – a circus of mullahs and men alike, chanting the God’s name to open revolt when asked to.
The ‘intelligent’ Muslim world
The Muslim world, the one where there is intelligent life, has closed their mosques for congregational prayers in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus. In Qatar, the mosques have changed the wordings of the call to prayer, in accordance with Islamic values and history, asking the faithful to pray at home. In Palestine, imams have invited doctors and health experts to give the Friday sermons so that they can help the masses by spreading awareness about the invisible enemy. And in Saudi Arabia, home to two of the holiest sites of Islam, the performance of Omra has been temporarily halted, the holy Ka’abah has been temporarily closed for Tawa’afs, the holy Prophet’s mosque has closed its door for the first time in a while, and it has been reported that the yearly Hajj may not happen.
Too many Khans is too many Khans
When a playboy-turned-politician comes into power through religious votes, there is nothing natural about his selection. Khan simply has too many faces to please and too many favors to repay for him to lead the country of this once-in-a-century pandemic. He cannot disappoint the opportunists from Karachi, he cannot disappoint the right or the left, and he cannot disappoint those in Rawalpindi. Khan, undoubtedly one of the most educated, striking, and honest statesman in the country’s history, has projected one too many fronts to belong to any.
On the other end, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah is making all the headlines Khan should’ve making. Shah, one of Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior-most politicians, has made all the right decisions so far, so much so, he has pretty much saved the country from what could’ve one of its most horrible ends. Shah locked down the country overlooking Khan’s populist sentiments and then he empowered his security forces to enforce them, he made decisive, tough, and striking decisions and was immediately followed in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa – Khan’s strongholds, and most importantly, Shah refused to give one drop of consideration to the mullahs and closed down all mosques and madrasas indefinitely until the end of the pandemic.
All-in-all, if Khan is serious about preventing a blunder, a bloodbath, and a chaos of the highest level, he needs to abandon his alliance with the mullahs and needs to realize that this is not a time to bag votes. The mullahs need to let the reality cascade upon their holier-than-thou-selves and realize that no they are not immune to the novel coronavirus. And the people need to realize that God doesn’t help those who do not help themselves.
To conclude, I would like to narrate Al-Thirmidhi:
“Anas ibn Malik reported: A man sad, “O Messenger of Allah, should I tie my camel and trust in Allah, or should I leave her untied and trust in Allah?” The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Tie her and trust in Allah.””
Khan’s incompetence is going to cost us a country
Khan needs to realize that the time to act is now and no amount of Nathiagali walks is going to contain the novel coronavirus that has brought the country to a standstill.
During his first national address concerning the novel coronavirus, unfortunately-Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan stated that the COVID-19 virus, which has until now, infected 200,000 and killed over 8,000 people worldwide isn’t “serious enough” to lockdown the country.
In his national address, coming weeks late in the first place, Khan absolutely failed to convince the country of the government’s plans and strategies to tackle the novel coronavirus. His unruly, disruptive, and unlike-statesman smirks and expressions, once again, left only his sponsees in awe of him, so much so, the social media erupted in praising the one handsome prime minister this country has ever had. Khan deserves the praise, though, for only his visionary self could apprehend spending Rs42 million of taxpayers’ money for the constitution of a digital media wing at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, the only responsibility of which is to defend the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government over the internet and on social media platforms.
As of Wednesday, Pakistan has recorded at least 245 cases of the highly contagious coronavirus – the highest number of confirmed cases in South Asia, compared with 147 in India, 44 in Sri Lanka, and 22 in Afghanistan. Furthermore, NayaDaur, a Pakistani media outlet, has reported that if the government continues doing the bare minimum, which it is, the cases may rise to over 80,000 by mid April.
In mainland China, the coronavirus has infected over 8,500 people and killed 3,248, in Italy, the coronavirus has infected over 35,00 people and killed 2,978, and in Spain, the coronavirus has infected over 17,000 and killed 767. What Khan needs to understand is that Italy, China, and Spain boast some of the world’s best healthcare systems, furthermore, they are top-tier world economies while Pakistan doesn’t even have enough protective kits to equip their doctors with. Khan also needs to understand that the novel coronavirus is highly contagious and that the new cases will rise exponentially, which means, if simply put, that there will be a need for a lot of ICU beds and ventilators that the country doesn’t have. In figures, Pakistan has 0.6 ICU beds available for 1,000 people while China, Italy, and Spain have 4.2, 3.4, and 3.0 beds per 1,000 people respectively. What Khan needs to understand is that if the government doesn’t take decisive measures now, it will be too late.
Khan refuses to halt his populist stance, so much so, he refuses to visit anywhere without having at least a dozen photographers following him. In a video that Khan posted on his social media profiles, he can be seen observing the state of a quarantine center in DG Khan inquiring about the patients’ health, to which, of course, the patients, or so, answer in all-praises for the management – in this case the PTI’s Punjab government. The patients sing Khan’s name and throw their support behind him to conclude what seemed like a textbook scripted PR stunt. But God works in mysterious ways for the points that the video had scored the Punjab government were quickly balanced out by Sardar Usman Buzdar who, shockingly, is also the ‘Chief Minister’ of the province. According to a Pakistani media outlet Dawn, which also happens to be the country’s oldest and most reliable English newspaper, Buzdar asked such an innocent question that it rocked, rather sunk, the very idea of him leading the fight against the coronavirus. Dawn reported the incident as follows:
“A few days ago Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar received a detailed briefing on coronavirus from relevant experts and officials. The purpose was to provide him all the information he required as the chief executive of the largest province, so he could make the right decisions. At the end of the briefing, the chief minister asked a question innocently: ”Yeh corona kaat-ta kaisay hai?” (how does this corona bite?)”
On the other side of the country, Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah is leading the country’s fight against the vicious virus. Shah, 57, holds two masters degrees from Stanford University and is concluded in the list of Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) most senior politicians and figures. Shah’s plan is simple: halt the spread of the coronavirus as soon as possible, quarantine all those showing severe symptoms, provide for the families of those quarantined, and isolate and test all those returning home from countries with the most coronavirus cases. To implement his plan, Shah ordered the closure of all educational institutions when the very first coronavirus case was confirmed in Sindh. Later, he ordered to shut down all public monuments, parks, offices, restaurants, beaches, and shopping malls. He set up a 10,000-bed hospital in Karachi, a 2000-bed hospital in Sukker, and isolation centers in all districts of Sindh. Furthermore, he has been thorough in reporting cases, spreading awareness, and containing panic by holding press conferences almost every other day. Shah’s plan has worked out so well that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has applauded his efforts calling his work “the best after (that of) China’s.”
Khan’s team lacks greatly what Shah’s team is doing so wonderfully well, but he still refuses to acknowledge it, so much so, not once has he passed any positive comments Shah’s way nor is he committed to consider Shah’s many suggestions any seriously than he would take anyone’s not wearing boots to go with their suits. Khan is stubborn, weak, and controlled by one too many fronts and so, it is our duty, as citizens of this great country, to question his policies, grudges, politics, and decisions for we have voted him into the office he’s not working hard enough to keep. It is our duty as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters to make sure our loved ones are taken care of in this testing time. And it is our duty as daily workers, housewives, doctors, and students to fight for our right of survival.
Khan needs to realize that he is the prime minister of not only Punjab and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, but also of Sindh, Balochistan, Kashmir, and Gilgil-Baltistan. Khan needs to realize that the country can only survive this pandemic if it projects a common front, defended equally by all parties of all provinces. And Khan needs to realize that the time to act is now and no amount of Nathiagali walks is going to contain the novel coronavirus that has brought the country to a standstill.
Person of the Decade – Raheel Sharif
Bisouv, in its first public issue, salutes the many achievements of the former Chief of Army Staff Raheel Sharif.
Through storms of political biases, domestic and foreign insurgencies, and financial and social emergencies, Pakistan has emerged – every time a little stronger. And the people responsible for putting the country in these desperate of situations are plenty and the people responsible for taking the country out of them are, but a few. Bisouv, in its first ever public issue, salutes the latter and in this article, celebrates one of the few – Raheel Sharif.
Currently serving as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, a 39-nation alliance of Muslim countries headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Raheel Sharif, a former four-star general and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) is arguably the most popular COAS in Pakistan’s history. Born in a country, in which to this day all shots are called, directly or in a de-facto martial law-style, by the military, Raheel Sharif was different – a general who ‘could,’ but never did.
MORE FROM THIS WEEK’S ISSUE: Blinding Justice and a Case of Uniforms
Under his command, the Pakistan Army carried out fierce anti-terrorism operations in North Waziristan in the Operation Zarb-e-Azb, which not only stabilized the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA,) but built the foundation for the government of Pakistan to merge the deprived province into Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KP.) Sharif was responsible for expanding the role of paramilitaries, mainly Pakistan Rangers, in the coastal city of Karachi – a move that saw an exceptional decrease in the crime rate in the city and later pulled out the city’s name out of the ‘Most Dangerous Cities in the World’ list. Unlike his predecessors, Sharif wholeheartedly supported the democratically elected government in the deprived, and the largest province of Pakistan, Balochistan and buried the hatred that former dictator Musharraf first initiated in 2006. At the request of the Chinese government and after the Pakistan government’s approval, Sharif created a new brigade-level military unit to help protect and secure the many projects under the Pakistan-China Economic Corridor (CPEC.) Sharif also helped develop Pakistan’s indigenous defence industry, which resulted in the savings of more than $1.14 billion, over a year and half time period
In other feats, under Raheel Sharif, the Pakistan Army operated strictly under its constituted jurisdiction and left foreign, social, and economic policies to the democratically elected civilian government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Under his tenure, Pakistan Army carried out first ever joint military exercises with Russia and supported the government deepen relations with China.
MORE FROM THIS ISSUE: Once a city of gardens, Lahore is now a concrete jungle
Reportedy, Sharif also thwarted a coup attempt in 2014. As disclosed by former United States ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olsen, former head of Pakistan Intelligence Service ISI Zahir-ul-Islam was mobilizing for a coup in September of 2014 during Imran Khan’s infamous Islamabad protest that lasted for months.
“We received information that Zahir-ul-Islam, the DG ISI, was mobilizing for a coup in September of 2014 [during Khan’s protest in Islamabad.] [Army Chief] Raheel [Sharif] blocked it by, in effect, removing Zahir, by announcing his successor,” Olson was quoted in the recently launched book ‘The Battle For Pakistan, The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood’ by Shuja Nawaz in its chapter titling, Mil-to-Mil Relations: Do More. “[Zahir] was talking to the corps commanders and was talking to likeminded army officers… He was prepared to do it and had the chief [Raheel Sharif] been willing, even tacitly, it would have happened. But the chief was not willing, so it didn’t happen.”