Last Birthday With Abu – IMRAN™

Every time I used to bid adieu to my father I always soaked it all in; time and feelings, sights and sounds, love and lifelong bond. One never knows when it is the last time you meet a loved one.

Advertisements

Is That A “Doctorate” In/And Journalism Degree In Your Pocket? – IMRAN™

I am curious about the medical qualifications of your writer. Are they a forensics expert? I am also curious about their professional journalism qualifications.

Make You Very Cross/Word Game. National Scrabble Day. – IMRAN™

The same day that is Thomas Jefferson’s birthday, April 13, is also known as National Scrabble Day.

(Inter)National Sibling Day. – IMRAN™

Even though none of my family members are here in the United States with me, this photo taken 21 years ago at our blessed home in Lahore, Pakistan, is a great reminder of what is important in life.

On Freedoms And Memories Of Another Day On Memorial Day – IMRAN™

These idiots did not serve in newsrooms that would be raided by scummy crooked military officers of evil dog General Zia’s regime to rip out stories being put in the next day’s paper. They did not know journalists whose fingernails were ripped out by “security services” as we knew. They did not get court-martialed as an engineering student leading marches against the military regime as I did.

I was still a final year student at University of Engineering and Technology (LahorePakistan) when Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the owner of the media empire in this NY Times story ( http://j.mp/1r9rVO6 ), invited me to work directly for him. I was 22 then. 

 

I had met him a few times before, mostly as a student leader leading protest marches into his office when Jang, the leading Pakistan newspaper but that would cave in and give greater coverage to the Taliban cousins Jamate-Islami fundamentalists party. So it was an ironic twist to become one of his key people. 

 

He originally invited me to write on a Youth page but in my first day visiting his office I saw how IBM people in Pakistan were about to rip him off by selling electric typewriters with changeable font balls as “desktop publishing systems”. I made a comment about that. 

 

Yes, I always spoke my mind regardless of the “stature” of the people in the room and continue to do so. 

 

Shakil didn’t sign the contract and immediately said, forget the youth page, I want you to sit with me here every day and advise me on anything you want. He had the foresight to see that my vision of technology changing media changing society changing the world was the missing piece in his media/society part of the equation. 

 

I learned a lot of lessons from him, 90% of them good, and just 10% of them disappointments. That is a pretty amazing ratio in a world full of us imperfect people. And I am sure there have been times I must have disappointed him too. But I consider him one of the best teachers in my life besides my parents. 

 

He did his best to dissuade me from going to Columbia Business School on a full scholarship, saying I would learn so much more as his right hand man. I have no doubt that would have been true, but I am glad I left. Yes, it would have been an amazing journey with Shakil, but I would still be an employee of a tycoon. I am blessed and grateful for all that life has brought my way on my own. 

 

Our friendship continued over the last 25 years I spent in America. I literally flew in on a PIA flight carrying several thousands pounds of equipment for the well known News International which I was involved in the launch of. I literally flew in minutes before the newspaper went to press.

 

Shakil left the press building even as plates for the very first copies of the paper were being mounted onto presses. Even though it was a lifetime dream of his family coming true, he drove from the Jang Karachi building to the airport to personally receive me inside the terminal and then drove me to the press with him to see the very first copies of the newspaper roll off the press. I always honor him for how he has always honored me over the years.

 

Though we are not related at all, we used to look alike a bit. (Maybe the prominent nose LOL). He always treated me like a younger brother he did not have (unless I happened to ask for a raise LOL). And he would always laugh when I would affectionately mimic his distinctive manner and style of speaking. 

 

One day we were in his magnificent office on the top floor of the Jang Building in Lahore when I did my impression of him. He was laughing out loud when his assistant (Fayyaz) said a well known but obnoxious person (son of a national leader), who had not personally met Shakil before, was there to visit. 

 

Like in a comedy movie, Shakil thought my impression was so great I should meet that obnoxious person acting as Shakil and Shakil would become Imran. We both moved to the “drawing room” part of the office when the guest came in. And I have to say, I was so flawless in doing my Shakil impression the guest (who had spoken to MSR before on the phone) had no clue what happened. Shakil and I had to do everything in our power not to crack up laughing. We did not do that again, but I remember that and many other adventures, mid-day or midnight, that we shared with love, trust and affection.  

 

Though Shakil and I do not get time to speak regularly now, I still consider him one of the smartest, most forward looking businessmen in the world. Yes, Jang, and the GEO channel, are brilliant commercial media organizations. But not once did I ever see action or hear any words come out of the mouth of Shakil (or his late father the great Mir Khalil ur Rehman, brother Javed, or his brilliant sons or daughters) that would ever be remotely considered anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam. 

 

I laugh at former Playboy, by now probably Viagra-needing pro-fundamentalists, like Imran Khan (whom I once admired) and others making accusations against Shakil. It amazes me how many dumb idiots, especially on Twitter and FaceBook (places they exercise right to free speech), foaming at the mouth about wanting to have GEO shut down. 

 

They do not know what it is like not to have these basic freedoms of expression. They do not know how to exercise the freedom of switching the channel if they do not like something. They want things to be exactly how they want them or to be shut down.

 

These idiots did not serve in newsrooms that were raided by scummy crooked military officers of evil dictator General Zia‘s regime to rip out stories being put in the next day’s paper. They did not know journalists whose fingernails were ripped out by “security services” as we knew.  They did not get court-martialed as an engineering student leader for leading marches against the military regime as I did.

 

They did not fall sleep on the floors of newspaper press buildings at 4AM to make sure nothing kept the presses from running. Shakil did, and I was proud to have been next to him in those times. 

 

Long live democracy, freedom of speech, and a free Press, in Pakistan as well as USA

 

And long live my friend Shakil and his family.

Pakistan Democracy: The Long March, The First Step

What a difference a day makes. What an even bigger difference a week can make.

What an amazing and exciting week this has been for Pakistan as a nation. Its elected leaders had just recently squandered a historic opportunity to set Pakistan boldly and directly on the path to institution and nation building.

On more than one occasion, on TV and radio, I had compared Pakistan, as a nation and especially as a government, to the ship Titanic, except that this one had deliberately hit every iceberg it could find.

Just when it seemed that the current government in Islamabad had completely forgotten the lessons of history – of merely one year ago – something changed. It had appeared that the policies of Islamabad were surely and not so slowly pushing Pakistan in the direction of chaos and eventual return of martial law.

As someone who has told his share of lawyer jokes, for the last one year I have had nothing but praise and kudos for the barristers and attorneys of Pakistan. Theirs is a career dependent upon daily earnings, made from daily work outside the court houses of Pakistan. One could not have been imagined that profession as the consistent and unstoppable source of the year-long protest movement. What the lawyers of Pakistan carried out was doubly special, as they did it against not one but two tyrants within one year.

Besides self-inflicted wounds, almost exactly of the kind that General Musharraf suffered from, perhaps there was some hubris or misconception in Islamabad. Maybe there was a feeling that people in Pakistan have become immune to tyranny. Perhaps it was felt that when push comes to shove Pakistanis are so used to having people in power do what they please that nothing would come out as protest against any power grab carried out by Islamabad.

But just when it seemed that our ship PNS Titanic was headed straight into a minefield, surrounded by icebergs, in the midst of the perfect storm, the most amazing opposite perfect storm arose in response. The nation became a nation.

The Long March, as it was called, was the best example of a peaceful (at least by Pakistani standards) uprising by the people of Pakistan to have their way with an elected ruler trying to cling to, and expand, his power.

I was in Lahore in 1977 when it happened the last time. I remember driving past puddles of blood covered with ash in dozens and dozens of locations on The Mall where anti-PPP protesters had been killed by the government at that time. This time however, thankfully, the perfect storm that arose was one of common sense, decency, courage and people power.

In particular in addition to the lawyers of Pakistan, there are many people I, even as a New York-based Pakistani, want to give thanks to.
This includes Prime Minister Gilani for his understanding of which way the wind was blowing and helping President Zardari see some light. General Kayani must have had to fight the urge not to take over the government. It must have been difficult when the elected leaders were themselves creating a situation that was going to endanger not just law and order in Islamabad but bring chaos across the nation.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has grown in stature not just within Pakistan but also abroad. He is being praised for taking a stand on principle, showing patience and then being very statesmanlike in his response to broken promises from Islamabad. To then show courage and refuse house arrest to march upon Islamabad put him on a much higher level of leadership than he was at before.

Even the police officers who, after some “kaarwai“, showed common sense and decency, either to resign or to let the protesters begin their march towards Islamabad, should be considered heroes of democracy. As most of my readers and fans know from my background, during my days at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore, in the early 1980s,

I was a student leader and chief organizer of QSF. The Islami Jamiate Taliba, as well as its parent, the Jamate Islami, were considered the mortal enemies of liberal organizations like ours. They even murdered Anas Choudhry, a final year student member of QSF, the year I joined UET.

But, today, as during the previous year, I am happy to give credit to this party for its principled stand against tyranny and dictatorship.

I never thought it possible, but even a member of the very political party and inner circle of Islamabad, Ms. Sherry Rehman, deserves praise for her decency, courage – and good timing – in resigning her position. It can be argued that she did it because there were others interfering in her ministry rather than what the government was doing to the independent media. But I, and the people, still give credit for her resignation.

Many of these things would not have become possible had it not been for the courageous, first-time in the life of our nation, stand of the real Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Choudhry, and his fellow judges, who resigned under General Musharraf.

They stayed out of office and jobs, despite pressure, incentives and other tricks that governments have at their disposal in Islamabad. I will avoid passing comment on the people who sold out their souls to get the appointments that they got. But I hope that this new chapter in Pakistan’s history will also be the time when we start naming our villains for future generations to remember and spit on the names of.

Another hero, an entire industry really, that is among the less respected professions around the world these days, including America, was the Pakistani media. I say this not as a member of the media but as a proud Pakistani American who was ashamed of the silent acquiescence of American media in George Bush and Dick Cheney‘s shameless rape of the American Constitution and human rights around the world.

American media cannot be shut down by any government. Yet the media here quietly let the Bush government do whatever it wanted.

The Pakistani government, through many of its Stone Age laws curtailing freedom of expression and press, can shut down almost any Pakistani media entity. The bigger they get in Pakistan, the more the government can squeeze them. Even as a teenager I know how many magazines Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto, whom I then admired, shut down for being critical of his policies. Urdu Digest was one that frequently had to reappear under other names.

I was a member of the press in Pakistan when vile dictator General Zia-ul-Haq gave many journalists a taste of what a dictator can do. He had writers’ nails pulled with pliers to make them stop criticizing him.

For the Pakistani media to have stood up, first to General Musharraf and then to the current Zardari government in Islamabad, at great risk and financial loss to themselves, is another element to celebrate in this great victory of the people. A lot of credit goes to GEO TV, Jang and many other media.

Lack of space and time prevent me from individually thanking every single group or individual, like Mr. Aitezaz Ahsan, who played a central role in this great turnaround. God bless you all, for being the new heroes of a new democracy that can still rise in our nation.

The long march may have been intended for Islamabad, but it may turn out to be something far more important.

The Long March may have become The First Step in a thousand-mile journey – to the true destiny of Pakistan – as a great, free, democratic society ready to take its place in history.

“Qadam Barhao Saathio, Qadam Barhao”

Imran Anwar is a New York and sometimes Florida based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and imran@imran.com . You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/imrananwar