Posted in happiness

His Highness Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee – Lights, arts and decorations in Karachi

2017 was a blessed year for Ismaili Muslims in Pakistan as our spiritual leader, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan visited the country. The localities where our community resides was lit-up beautifully and I would like to share these photographs.

Rahimabad Jamat Khana:

Murals at Rahimabad Jamat Khana:

Platinum Jamat Khana:

PASK Jamat Khana:

Garden Jamat Khana:

Nizari Jamat Khana:

Pic Courtesy: Amin Pirbhoy and Zohaib Huda

Murals at Nizari Jamat Khana:

Will be uploading soon

Posted in islam, religion

The origin of the art of Islamic calligraphy is attributed to Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib


“The beauty of writing is the tongue of the hand and the elegance of thought.”
Ali ibn Abi Talib

Blue Qur'an Bifolium from the “Blue Quran,” dated North Africa, 9th-10th century. Sura al-Furqan (The Criterion), 25:55 – 64. Aga Khan Museum

From the Greek kallos (beauty) and graphein (to write), calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. Although the development of sophisticated calligraphy as an art form is not unique to Islamic cultures, it has been used to a much greater extent and in varied ways, and in all art forms and materials in Islamic civilisations.

Sources credit Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad and the first Imam of the Shia, as the developer of the Kufic script. This is the oldest style of Quranic calligraphy, named after the city of Kufa in Iraq, where the script is believed to have originated. Hazrat Ali taught that each letter of…

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Posted in education

Is it more work to work with more people?

Is group-work or cooperative learning same as collaborative learning?

For me, collaboration needs to be more than just being a group. You need to capitalize on the synergy of ideas, knowledge and skills. Each member should have a particular role based on their strength or interest. You need to be inter-dependent in a collaborative task where the final product is only possible with everyone’s input and there is no free-loading.

Brindley, Walti and Blaschke (2009) also provide some characteristics/strategies that help to take forward group work beyond cooperation to collaboration such as a clear purpose of collaboration and expectations of roles, the balance between structure and learner autonomy, relevance for the collaboration and monitoring.

With so many roles and equally many contributors, how can you keep track of the work?

In the real, you are required to work with others and not alone (Shaw, 2006), so it is an important skill to stay connected or structured even in a non-linear task/way of working. It is important to set up group rules, make sure the purpose of the collaboration and expectations are clearly explained and understood by all contributors from the outset. The group should capitalize technology to collaborate more efficiently and monitor each other’s contribution (e.g. using Google Drive).

Is collaborative learning only about a project or long-lasting relationships?

Long-lasting relationship is first litmus test of effective collaborative learning (unfortunately, you can only know about it in a subsequent project) because you try to work on common purpose and create a community of practice. Both the product/project and the process of group work should be meaningful (Swan, Shen, & Hiltz, 2006).

If it is based on long-lasting relationships then does it create stagnation and homogeneity in terms of community membership?

Yes, it can. It should always be a community than a lobby. Therefore, an addition of new members and creating an open environment and power balancing is really important.


Brindley, J.E., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L.M. (2009). Creating effective collaborative learning groups in an online environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 10(3)

Shaw, S. (2006). New reality: Workplace collaboration is crucial. Eedo Knowledgeware Whitepaper.

Swan, K., Shen, J., & Hiltz, S.R. (2006). Assessment and collaboration in online learning. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, 10(1), 45-62.

Posted in freedom, pakistan, pluralism, religion, social evils

Pakistan’s Easter 2016 – Not a beginning to be proud of.

Easter is wonderful occasion celebrating new beginnings with the arrival of spring. With treats like marzipan and hot cross buns, the festivities are such a treat. Like every year, I got a generous share from my Christian friends. I have known many Christians and I have not seen any of them belittling their other sects. Catholics and Protestants live so peacefully. Some segments of Muslims in Pakistan do not. They are so much into sectarian divide and violence that sometimes it is just a shame. And then there are others, who then try to bridge the gaps and portray the best possible character.

Yesterday, many Christians and people from other religions – mostly children and women, lost their lives on a day when new beginnings are celebrated. Such a shameful act. We can blame the government and get angry on the Taliban terrorist but their nexus is so complex that one can’t help much – they are bloody corrupt. However, the mindset of discrimination also exists far and wide in the disguise of being both religious or moderate and it is time to face the mirrors. So, if you have ever professed your religion and your interpretation of your religion as the best or only truth, then you are as much to blame. If you have ever thought or said anything demeaning about another sect or minority in order to feed your false pride, you are equally to blame. Because even you are myopic even to consider only your religion is superior, you are demeaning the other, and one can surely be not the ‘best’ follower. Everyone sins. If you have curbed any human right in the name of religion, you have done bad, if not worse or worst.

I have been harassed by such people in my teenage years. When my chemistry teacher (and not Islamic Studies teacher) at my school started discriminating students based on their sect, I should have understood that Pakistan is brewing to be this messed up and as an adult, I should anticipate this kind of world. I was naive; we are naive. 15 years later, we are truly messed up. Messed up people who are Qadri apologists, blasphemy law supports, India haters, West haters, people who cry on not getting Iqbal Day holiday, people against Holi/Holy holidays, or destroyers of happy celebrations of our brothers and sisters.

Thanks to some of the so-called teachers, not only in Madrassahs but all over, in families, in mosques, in political parties. Let’s face it, many people who are considered honorable in certain societies, are the biggest hate mongers/preachers because they are themselves so corrupt that they can’t see the wrath of their fears. The minute you identify one, just bombard them with questions regarding their intention. This nation needs reality checks every minute. Asking a question requires guts, which we do not encourage or teach in our society, but we need to show some courage now. So after Mullah in the mosque gives a sermon or some uncle, teacher or friend gives advice in a drawing-room, let’s pretend that we have a Q&A session to follow. I am sure many of the people will not utter a word, forget the questions because they are fearful that mobs would just harass them and incite their fears over others. We have become so afraid of God that we have forgotten the softer side of love.

We need street smartness to religion. We have become book-worms. We need intellectuals of religion who can question in order to understand better. Those who teach their kids to question, are confident and greatest teachers who do not run on their ego.

Posted in freedom, gender, pakistan, social relationships



Every year, 8th March is celebrated as International Women’s Day. It is a global day celebrating the achievements of women. At the same time, it is a great time to advocate and reflect on issues related to gender equality, that is men and women (including trans-gendered individuals) should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender. Gender refers to socially constructed characteristics and norms of women and men (and people have the right to assert how they want to identify yourself irrespective of your biological sex).

Globally, the women are fighting to get their deserved share of equality and opportunities; however, the situation is not celebratory for Pakistan. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2014, Pakistan ranks 141 out of 142 countries worldwide.  Large gaps continue to exist between men and women in health, education, politics, and economic participation.  Factors contributing to high inequalities for women include gender-based violence, restricted mobility, lack of education, little awareness of rights, lack of access to and ownership of resources and assets, and limited access to social services. The root-cause of this divide and the outlined factors has been the patriarchal norms of the society.

We are aware of this fact but it is also important to acknowledge that in the modern age, these norms equally harm the men. Humankind is selfish and in my skepticism, men would only join the league when they see the benefit for their own kiln because change of norms is a long-term battle. In order to understand how patriarchy hurts men themselves and how we can engage all genders of society towards equality, I can think of only one solution i.e. raising questions, as I do not have the answers yet. Historically, Pakistanis are encouraged not to question any authority whether it is the family, school, religion or any other area of life so the first step is overcoming our complacency.

Let’s begin with economic development as at the end of the day, it runs the home. This year, the central theme for International Women’s Day campaign is the pledge for parity. Parity refers to the equal pay and leadership opportunities for all genders. But the argument that men ask is that why should women get equal pay in our society when men has more responsibilities for the financial sustenance of families. Orthodoxy in interpretation of religious scripture supports such perception and this patriarchal norm is nothing less than a burden for a family unit in today’s age where the middle class is diminishing quickly. One person earning for the whole family is an unrealistic proposition. If women have the chance for equal pay, the urge of genders to participate increase and the independence of working woman can be mutually beneficial to families if men can keep their egos aside. In many instances, women are the sole-earners or continue to support their families (I won’t bring marital status here because it is so irrelevant) and therefore, the whole idea of one gender bearing financial responsibility is baseless and parity becomes even more important. The idea of family is all about love and support of all kinds. It is an imperative to destroy patriarchal norms and therefore, a pre-requisite to establish other equalities of responsibilities as sharing housework after work and taking care of development of children. Paternal and maternal leaves also helps in maintaining that balance for a married couple.

In return, this participation can help in easing the emotional pressure that comes with patriarchal ideals of manhood. Under patriarchy, a man cannot be vulnerable, sensitive and expressive because he has to be strong enough to sustain the family, its economics and dynamics. Equality can ease out these unrealistic and inhumane expectations that men have created themselves for their creed. Briefly, we need to realize and acknowledge that women do not require men to save their lives. There are plenty of examples of women from diverse backgrounds who fight against the odds to get through every day. The solidarity will eventually help men to understand themselves holistically.

So what questions should we ask as a society to get there? For each of the area discussed henceforth, HeForShe campaign website has been referred to determine questions.

  • Does a healthy family is dependent or interdependent?
  • How would my workplace change positively if all genders were treated equally?
  • Does my workplace support equal pay for equal work?
  • What positive examples of women we have of female co-workers and leaders who are balancing their quality of life?
  • How can we eliminate taboos of using digital technology so that it can accelerate learning, provide economic opportunities and connect them to life-saving resources?
  • How would my family’s life be different if safety wasn’t an issue, in person or online?

For economic development of tomorrow, we will need to start today with good education and health for all genders, especially the girl child because they already have lesser opportunities. For United Nations global goals for sustainable development, 2016 is dedicated to the girl progress. For many societies, a myopic understanding of religion can create a barrier for development especially in what we equate to ‘honor’, which in my opinion, has never been an intention of any faith. One need to think about Mother Mary, Hazrat Bibi Khadija and Hindu goddesses to understand how they had already made a difference in the world before men came and contributed in their lives. Moreover, their initiative was never dependent on permissions from men.

So what question we need to ask ourselves for the area of education and health? They are pertinent to ask because if even we are providing girls’ education, we stereotype their opportunities (also sometimes attach shame) based on our biases of gender roles. Hint: the answers are mostly affirmative based on research and current job trends.

  • Should schools require all students to take computer science classes?
  • Do you think boys and girls can excel at the same subjects?
  • Should schools offer the same number of extracurricular sports to boys and girls?
  • Do we need more positive male and female teachers championing for the girl progress? What does it mean for young boys and girls?
  • Why do you think women now outnumber men on many college campuses?
  • What role models do we have of successful individuals pursuing a non-traditional degree for their gender?
  • What do you think is the biggest health risk in our country? Do genders stereotypes contribute to the risk?
  • Are all genders prepared to provide emotional support with intelligence?
  • Do partners in our society give each other respect for health and choices related to wellbeing?
  • Do you think your families and health system adequately supports mother’s and child’s health?
  • Can genders talk openly about their sexual wellbeing, so they have a sound physical and mental health?

In all the questions, there is a need to shift how we identify, communicate and act our societal roles. How can we embrace diversity and find strength therein? Are we man enough to demonstrate a new definition of masculinity where we are intuned with the feminine traits that we inherit from our resilient mothers, where heroism corresponds not to macho-ism but the emotional strength of kindness, compassion and sensitivity? How can we teach children and teens to be accepting of all genders identities? How can we contribute to making our society safe for all genders? More importantly, what it means to be human – the experience where you transcended and didn’t conform to normative gender expectations.

I know socio-economic realities are harsh, there is no one-size that fits all but these are some starting points towards assimilation and we need to be inclusive. If anyone reading this can engage any one member in your circle of influence – your family member, friend, work colleague or your own workers to think about even a single question and act on the answers, this will push us for the subsequent questions.

As world-renowned feminist Gloria Steinem said “The story of women’s struggle for equality belongs to no single feminist nor to any one organization but to the collective efforts of all who care about human rights”

It is high time that all genders including men set their egos aside and join the collective. Sometimes women also unconsciously try to propagate the patriarchy because everyone has a fair share of baggage. It will not change rapidly; it will be a daily ordeal. Sometimes you will believe in these ideals but it will be difficult to act on it. Personally, I believe in this ideal but I have also faltered because of my share of societal baggage. We all will need to forgive each other at times, and sometimes we learn it hard way.

However, on a larger level, we need to respect the choice of a woman to take her decisions about their identity, beliefs, appearance, mobility, action and nature of participation, marriage and so on. Most importantly, men cannot be secure until they liberate their fear of women (a disguise for fear of what other men or world will say). Men will never be secure until they are fearful of using the next cuss word, sexist joke or dogmatic comment.

Posted in pakistan, religion, social evils

Mumtaz Qadri’s execution but what’s next…

The real win for Pakistan will be on the day when the blasphemy law would be eradicated because it is the root cause. I hope when #minorities are protected and their so-called religious abusers are treated the same way because even after Qadri’s execution, we have not reached to that discussion. The talk is still about having negative comments about blasphemy law, and not actual blasphemy law and so-called blasphemy. Long way to go.

Posted in New Media, pakistan

Polarization in social media on SOC Oscar Win

I am eager to watch #SOC new Oscar-winning documentary on HBO, 7th March is the date. Here is a short overview of the film. Not only because it got Oscar but also because I love and respect the genre of documentary. I have always been inclined towards an educative and aesthetic side of cinema. I had strong opinion about the last one, Saving Face. Initially, the producers had planned only for international or private screenings but it somehow surfaced on YouTube. After watching it, my reservations were not that it highlighted an issue at international level because that’s the role of documentary filmmakers but I found a lack of empathy in storytelling which is a stylistic issue. It is crucial because documentary filmmakers task is to tell the story as honestly and holistically as possible to advocate about the issue. Point of view matters.

You can indulge in investigative journalism and create a hard-hitting documentary, but when you show the subjects, empathy is an important element in the narrative. The film was largely focused on the effort of a non-resident surgeon depicted as a messiah, and a lot of other stakeholders such as Smile Again Foundation who brought the whole issue into the limelight with consideration practical efforts were not in the narrative. Documentaries are as much about the context as they are about the subject.

Many who critiqued the piece ‘after watching it’ and with thorough academic stance, especially by sharing a particular blog post in Express Tribune was quickly blocked from Sharmeen’s Twitter handle by herself or her PR. Blocking is completely okay because it is her space and she has right to manage it. It is important to acknowledge that many viewers had truly felt those gaps, even before coming across that blog so there was no intention to malign but to engage in a dialogue.

Social media has also come a long way after 2012. With the fair share of success, criticism, self-realization that the work should also focus solutions and the acid attack legislation, her work has matured over the years. Ho Yaqeen, Aghaz-e-Safar series and 3 Bahadur animated movie are her creative engagements which hold a good balance of understanding how we can solve our own problems. It also emphasizes that putting all your issues under the carpet does not do any good, trying to salvage the reputation of your country is not patriotism, but putting effort to understand those issues, what are the strengths in the system and society at large that can help us to improve our ill-givings and contributing to the change is.

This time, I am looking forward to how her amazing crew has learned over the years because to be very honest, her international and national facing work has employed a different approach in past and film-making also has a political and commercial dynamics to it, and it is part of the game.

A consequence of the fast-paced interaction on social media is that people start judging too soon, and I have a problem with it. One does not need to take sides to celebrate a winning moment. Watch the documentary, also her other work and then be proud of it or critique it with sound knowledge. Oscar is a proud moment, but it should not stop anyone from indulging in the content. Sharmeen Chinoy herself has mentioned in interviews that Google was her best friend to understand how documentary films are created as she did not have a formal training in the craft; moreover, she also has been blessed with amazing young talent in her crew. So before you make an opinion (of any nature), try to invest time to interpret the content from all the academic sources which technology has made easier for you to access and experts/mentors in the discipline. Journalism and academia should go hand in hand.

With all the buzz in the social media about films portraying a negative image of Pakistan, it will help that we refer people to her other work to witness the many positive outlooks her team has produced. Those one liners on honor, positive change, voice to voiceless are not enough as it creates more polarization.If you are genuinely interested, then go beyond rhetoric and share the work with others, that has the power as conversation starter or changer.  Whenever I see the various assumptions by others on her page or elsewhere across social media platforms, in my response I try to specifically mention all the projects that I also listed above, so breadth of work and its nature is also acknowledged.

The issues dealt are pertinent and we should have no shame in accepting them – that is the first step to change. There is no running away from it but yes, you can always have a take on the way an issue is dealt with in a narrative. For creating such an informed stance, you first have to see the actual thing else you are just churning assumptions as opinions. Just as an example, one can have a suggestion that in Saving Face these aspect could have been dealt better: what mechanism established in Pakistan helped the doctor to deal with the patients, or showing the survivor as a resilient force rather than an object of pity. In a response, the team might have answers about how they might have already incorporated these elements.

Are we asking too much from a film-maker? No. Because, if the film has the power to frame mindsets as it is publicly exhibited, more responsibility comes with that power. Similar to how an opinion-piece in a newspaper or an academic research article in a journal can be critiqued. It also provides chances for dialogue and/or rebuttal. Besides, it is important to educate the wider audience that filmmakers may wish to go an extra mile to facilitate change processes such as creating specific programs, creating support systems for marginalized, collecting donations, legislative change etc. but that is not their prime responsibility.

Moreover, documenting the issue is just tip of the iceberg, the next is legislation and eventually, the implementing of legislation to normalize the change. She has done her part, civil society has been championing many issues (including honor killing) for years before Oscars and after the Oscar limelight, it is now government and public which will move the wheel. We can start with small thing such as how to celebrate women achievements, what values do we attach with the concept of honor, what does it mean to be patriotic, what does it mean to be honest or what does it mean to be human, and so on. If we are comfortable in asking constructive questions, the nation is on the right track.

The wonderful quality of the medium of film is that it is multi-layered and multi-faceted so let’s embrace it with all the complexity. Consequently, it is also high time for filmmakers to realize that viewers bring their unique perspective to the film and it is important to be cognizant of it. If it has been made with an intention to help Pakistan, the citizens have a right to share their views as well, else the whole power of the medium becomes counterproductive. All documentaries are work-in-progress, even after the final cut at the edit table. Films have power to initiate the dialogue and that should be respected and not exploited. There is no honor in silence.