Massacre At Peshawar School

I have been trying to write a few thoughts on the horrific events of 16th December 2014 in Army Public School in Peshawar but my pen refuses to budge. The death of a child is a tragedy beyond the grasp of human intellect. The inhuman, barbaric massacre of a hundred and thirty six children is incredible. I watched the footage and the pictures in disbelief. The dear, innocent faces smeared in blood were impossible for a complete stranger to view. I wonder how the parents received the dead bodies of children they had dropped off at school a few hours ago. I wonder what mutated version of humans can do this atrocity to young school children. The nation is shell shocked at this tragic disaster. I want to share a few thoughts about what I saw, felt, heard and eventually thought.

The course of events unraveled as six fanatic gunmen entered in an army run institution in Peshawar. They called forth the kids whose parents were in the army and then one by one they executed them with AK47 rounds to the heads and faces. Many faces were beyond identification and blood and brains were scattered all over. Those who ran for their lives had bullet wounds to other parts of their bodies as well. Some children were spared because they were covered by dead bodies of their classmates heaped over them. Only one student of grade nine and one of grade seven survived the massacre. Most of the killing was done in the school auditorium. Where this story has the most ugly fiends and monsters on a killing spree, it also has some unsung heroes. A twenty four year old teacher stood between the mass murderers and her pupils. She was burnt alive by them and even during that painful ordeal she was shouting for her students to run and save their lives. A young, newly married woman had the heart of a lioness. The principal of the APS school was saved by soldiers of the Pakistan army and brought to safe grounds outside the school but she went back in saying my children are being killed. She was shot dead but she managed to save many lives in her heroic act of sacrifice.

I am awed and inspired by the bravery of all the teachers and children who lost their lives or limbs in this sad time. There is a footage of Lady Reading Hospital where one section is cordoned off and has countless bodies of children lying side by side with their families weeping at their martyrs. Almost every head is heavily bandaged. As a doctor I know what insane amount of work load must have befallen the staff of the Government Hospital. The countless number of injured had to be treated and stabilized. This is an act of kindness for the parents to cover the brutal wounds on the heads and faces of the deceased. But how does the staff doing all this service look at humanity with respect again. We live in a world where people can kill in the name of religion, country, social class or family. We live in a sordid world and if I had the choice I would go back to wherever I came from happily. Not much of a world we have. Everyone who has experienced this catastrophe suffers from post-traumatic stress.

There is one last video where the carcasses of six crazy men, none of them of Pakistani origin, are being shown to the spectators. They have been killed by the gallant soldiers of Pakistan army. One of them has an ugly satanic tattoo on his back. They all look like the monsters they truly were. And I think of one thing only. Good riddance. These are not Muslims, these are not Pakistanis and these are not humans. Period. No one with even an ounce of humanity, honor or faith can do what these barbarians did. However, there is a very important lesson for the rest of the world in this incident. We in Pakistan are at ground zero of the aftermath of the war on terror. We have been killed in more numbers and in more brutal ways than any other victims of terrorism. We are not part of their damn groups, we are the target of countless bombings, shootings and hatred. These people have attacked children of the army personnel fighting the war against terrorism. What hurts most is that these worms slither and crawl among us, killing our own and the world finds fault with our dear country. We may be many things but we do not support terrorists. This one incident is a huge neon sign for the world to connect the dots. The world is a global village now. What happens to one nation spreads like a plague and affects others. Whoever is behind the funding, strategy, training, recruiting and implementation of these ghastly plans needs to be thrown off the planet. Nothing less would solve this humongous problem. This is my little note of random thoughts at one of the most harrowing incidents I will ever watch or hear of. Please help us stop similar atrocities across the globe. Enough is enough and we will take it no more.


2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Shades Of Gray

Life teaches priceless lessons along the way. We are taught in our kindergarten years to recognize colors. And there comes a time when we consider ourselves masters at identifying each and every shade in the palette. Blue, green, red, black, brown, yellow and white are all crystal clear images in our minds. The clarity taught at those tender years is not merely an education, it is our ancestors’ attempt to give their children something to cling on to when the colors start merging and the lines between them seem muddled. These thoughts have been lurking in my mind for many years now and finally my pen has chosen to shed some light on them.

As one grows older the definitions and meanings seem to be conditional and perspective at best. Anything can be anything and anyone can be anyone, all one needs is to be able to change the paradigm of observation. As a perfectionist I would love to cling on to ideals of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, intelligence and folly, worthiness and triviality. But then again, aside from religious, moral or hypothetical ideals, I know of no person who is absolutely good with no amalgamation of evil in him. I have never come across untainted intelligence, morality or character. Everything is relative and thus it seems humanity is more inclined towards error and imperfection. The ideals impregnated in our young minds are to override the natural ease to sin and err. Thus, the necessity of a formative inculcation of morals, ethics and character makes complete sense in a world that does not encourage it.

The obligations imposed on nobility of character seem an additional encumbrance and inconvenience in life. However when we observe the heroic and amazing outcomes from such circumstances, we see humanity rise above its mundane standards as heroes and saints are born. The life of any exemplary human being is embedded with trials and tribulations, but the fact remains that the story of this life far transcends the biological age of the person. The legend always outlives the hero and as the story is told and retold to infuse the positive character of the protagonist in the minds of the masses, the hero grows to magnanimous proportion. We tend to add fiction to the fact and forget that the life when lived was a day-to-day struggle, with immeasurable misery, deceit and sorrow. The glory is mostly posthumous and rarely the heroes are commemorated in their lifetimes.

All this observation reminds me of the famous poem by Robert Frost. The road less travelled by has always been my personal favorite. When we chose to live exemplary lives and be better than everyone around us, we forget that we must make extraordinary sacrifices and give up on the dream of a normal life. To get exceptional rewards one must forego the common pleasures and not complain about the deprivation of ordinary joys. A hero at a warfront loses life or limb to pay for the medals of courage and endurance. A saint practices abstinence from simple indulgences to rise above his congregation. It makes complete sense that we humans need the presence of a God and religion in our lives to justify the hardships endured, hoping for a reward in the hereafter. Otherwise all the collective stories of deities, moral and ethical standards are a futile effort to make the world more inhabitable for our future generations. There are a hundred shades of gray in a life where we were taught to expect black and white. The only way we can get pure white or pure black is to remove all other colors that muddle our canvas. All those other shades are the colors of life one has to forgo to become larger than life.

Pray, Work, Smile

My pen is static for now. It is the silence before the storm and the calm before the calamity. I am trying beyond my moral strength to resist the urge to speak the truth to myself, the honest fair judgment of all that is and has been. My faculties have long ago analyzed the catastrophic chain of events and it is my dear, frail heart that is procrastinating. I am a very well rounded person, half intellect and half emotions. But the half and half effect leaves the nerves raw and the heart sore. The rational mind is forever at war with the emotional core and somewhere in between I endlessly suffer. I continue to love people, whom I know beyond absolute certainty, neither deserved that compassion nor desired it. Despite the sensitive spot, I remove them from my inner circle and keep them as a marginal presence in my life. It is better to cut off a dead relation than to drag the carcass along for years with regrets. Today, my pain peaks as our paths meet again and I find the simple, comical truth about us.

I am no angel but God knows I try to rise to the level of sainthood despite my weaknesses. I will not demonize anyone but I sure wish someone would measure up for a change. I know that some people are incapable of hatred and some of love. All the poetic metaphors swirl in the mind as I contemplate about the mess our relation has been reduced to. I ponder continually over the countless tangents our relationship could have gone in. I know I think too much for losses that were not only mine, while even fleeting thoughts do not cross your mind. The lives of some people are like rose bushes studded with thorns and they agonize over the smallest tribulations. And some lives are like thorn bushes blessed with roses, and these people are happy with the occasional blossom in a sea of bristles. I am the latter and I will always be grateful for this perspective from God. People who think I am pompous do not know the amount of inner resolve and courage required to smile despite the pain.

I write these lines for love lost, relationships besmeared and trust annihilated. I write in order to come to terms with all that has changed forever and no amount of goodwill or honesty will undo the metamorphosis. It is to tell myself that courage is needed dear heart to accept what one cannot change. And wisdom is required in generous proportions to move on in life without losing the goodness in one’s character. Bad people should not take away our gentleness and compassion with their misbehaviors. One needs a constant reminder that good things come to those who wait. Of all the stories ever told, evil never triumphed over good. If for the time being manipulative, deceitful cowards overshadow the selfless, sacrificing and honest people, it has to be a transient phase. One day, sooner than later, the echo of our deeds will find us. It may hurt today, but someone will come along who will comfort the broken heart and win the breached trust.

Somewhere beyond time, an Omnipotent is patiently watching and expecting us to trust Him, with eyes tightly closed and hands clasped in prayer. I remember a lesson from my convent school days that sums it all up nicely, ‘pray, work, smile’. That is all one is required to remain human and yet not hurt anyone in our lives. Of all the things that I value in my life, my capacity to pray like a child is priceless. I can still pray for people who have hurt me and forgive them with a full heart. When I ask God for a favor, I do not ask him for a lighter burden, but a strong back. It is another childhood lesson from my dear parents. The moral of the story is to gracefully conduct our everyday affairs with fortitude, humanity and humility. This is my prayer and pardon in a very difficult hour for those who have broken my wings and hindered my spiritual journey. While my pen refuses to write anything but the truth, this is the compassion despite the ugliness of the truth that I am sharing. On the steps of your Citadel, I lay all my pride, pain and glory. So, help me God to forgive those who have harmed me in thoughts, words and actions and to never become a reflection of them. Amen.

A Request for Members of Pakistan Bar Council

The Pakistan Bar Council elections are right around the corner. The innumerable candidates for the Bar Council membership are busy in their rigorous campaigns. The Mall Road along the Civil, Sessions and High courts is infested with flex signs, banners and posters of the lawyers running for elections. As I drive past these doctored pictures of lawyers, I feel pleasantly surprised at my recognition of some of the names and faces. Some of the congratulatory banners to the Vice Chairman Pakistan Bar Council catch my eye. Before the process has even started, the greedy and flattering elements have played their cards. It is sad indeed that such an important profession is so poorly represented. I have a humble request for each and every member of the legal community and I hope my word is taken as that of the common man in Pakistan hiring all of you as our advocates.

I have had a kaleidoscopic view of the legal community in the past couple of years. I have met the key power players and had a very close kinship to them. I have also unfortunately been exposed to the worst people in this arena who do nothing but threat, manipulate and cheat others. They are so obtuse in their dealings that they not only deceive the clients of the opposing councils but also their own clients. I wonder if they are merely surviving in a competitive society or are they really the scavengers they appear to be. I know many people in the medical community who scoff at the Hippocratic Oath and forget their duty to the ailing humanity. I guess practical life takes away some of the dreamy idealism and then when we get appreciation for our skills we forget we are but human. The point is that this group of professionals has the good with the bad elements. I would never be part of the solution if I too walk away with finding faults only. So here is my two cents for the heroes and the bandits alike, no pun intended.

As a litigant, my worst nightmare is the never ending adjournments in my cases. I am never certain if on the given next date there will be a strike by the bar council, or the presiding judge will be on leave or the opposing council will be unavailable. This unpredictability is the worst torture for any person trying to plead his right. And after coming from a foreign country, one feels horrified at the barbarity with which these proceedings are lingered on for years and years. The first appeal I make to all of you is to stop this practice. We all know the injustice involved if even at one point or another it serves our own purpose. When the Chief Justice is taking special notice of the red files of more than thirty year old cases, I wonder if he has been sleeping for the same amount of time. If he has been a part of the system, Then he too is the cause of these long delayed cases. Then why is the custom obstinately followed while fixing its damage? If it was a matter of more trivial nature, I would have found it as hilarious as a dog trying to catch it’s tail. But sadly, this is worth weeping over for the fate of those who stumble onto these corridors of justice.

The next suggestion is to decide during these elections what powers are you or your candidates striving for. Are they spending these ridiculous amounts of money on advertisements, catering lunches or dinners, giving gifts to lawyers and hosting get togethers for the improvement of social justice and supremacy of law in Pakistan? Or is it just so that they can bunch together in a group of office bearers and cash out every case they take up. With all due respect, I know that power politics means more money and more influence. But I wonder do we have a couple of heroes among you who are spending all these amounts for the general good of society? I don’t think so. Even with epic naïveté, I would not be so optimistic about the outcome. We are encouraging people to spend money on elections, therefore we are ensuring that no one with honorable intentions and a meager financial status would dare step forth. My request is to please choose people for their professionalism and moral upstanding. They represent all lawyers, they must be the best among you. My experience with last year’s office bearers left a very raw impression of this community. For your own sake, choose wisely and do not sell your vote for anyone’s ulterior motives.

The last word for the wise is a simple suggestion. You are professionals and there is nothing wrong with earning a living by your learnt skill. But a fee of more than hundred thousand rupees per case is very steep for even a wealthy client, I wonder how many poor litigants can afford it. What if for starters each and everyone takes up one ‘charity case’ per year, month or week according to your inner moral drive. While you are parading in these corridors with your high and mighty connections, listen to some of the deserving clients. When you see an injustice, speak up against it if even it does not pay you like the other cases. Maybe a more just and moral country will emerge when people start trusting the legal system through all of you. I know many will ridicule my effort to awaken the souls of our esteemed lawyers, but if even one person Understands the pain that has made me write these lines, my good intentions are well rewarded.

My last humble request is to some of the most powerful elements of your community, the vice chairman of Pakistan Bar Council and the Chief Justice Of Pakistan. Dear sir, you all are in a position to change lives and set the highest standards for justice and fair play. As senior lawyers you know all the tricks of the trade and the maladies infesting this noble profession. If you merely claim your positions and let the years pass on, people will know who you are and give their respects at best while you occupy these positions. But if you take charge of this great cause and rejuvenate the fibers of morality and justice in our society you will be legends, heroes even after your lifespans. And I will be proud of any association to you. I know this is a childish whim, but if I can be the voice of the common man to you, I know you will be the face of justice to every child born in the country. Years later, when the flattering voices of deceptive followers are no longer heard, you will be thanked genuinely or blessed openly for one kind deed you performed when you were in power politics. And maybe somewhere in the crowd your children will be proud of having such a great heritage. Please come forth and make us proud to be Pakistanis!

Code Red In Red Zone – Reviving Pakistan

Islamabad burns as crowds gather outside the Parliament building in Pakistan. This high security area is called the Red Zone of Islamabad with the Diplomatic Enclave, Supreme Court, President House, Parliament House and many sensitive Government buildings. The workers of two political parties Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) join forces against the ruling party PML-N. To a third person perspective, it is political enmity and nothing more. The brutal and excessive use of force by Punjab police on unarmed civilians and journalists is unprecedented. Watching history unravel itself before our eyes is a sobering experience. I have been witnessing die hard supporters of both sides arguing and counter arguing about the terms and conditions of the negotiations that seem impossible. Neither side is willing to compromise and find a middle ground.  I find myself baffled by the unfortunate turn events have taken in the last twenty four hours. Too much blood is being shed and the sanctity of police and army as institutions, Government buildings and civilians has been terribly tainted with violence. To my irrationally simplistic mind, the entire problem and solution seems far more comprehensible than it is.

We have gathered as a nation for a cause. What do I want as a citizen of Pakistan? Would our lives be better if Nawaz Sharif quits the Government and Imran Khan or Tahir ul Qadri come into power?  If yes, which one of them will be the Prime Minister and who will take the back seat? Who cares? My question to all these leaders, their followers and the neutral rationalists like myself is simple. What are we looking for? We are seeking a refuge from the myriad of problems plaguing us as a nation, individuals matter the least to us. Let us choose the change we need in our country and dictate that code of ethics to anyone who wishes to come into power. No more bigotry, no more deception, no more nepotism, period. Whoever wants to be in power needs to command that position of respect and prove his worth. No rigged elections or random numbers or power play should affect our opinions about our politicians. If they behave honorably, treat them with respect. If they disrespect our civilians and country, they can take a one way ticket to the moon.

I need clean drinking water and food for each and every civilian in Pakistan. The cost of living has to be made bearable for all not just the rich. A thirsty and hungry nation cannot go an inch beyond basic survival. I demand free basic healthcare for all and education for each and every child in the entire country. The judicial system should be impeccable and speedy justice be delivered at the expense of the state. So sustenance, healthcare, education and justice are the first, second, third and fourth requirements of good governance that should never be compromised. This should be followed by transparency of governance. The assets and finances of all elected officials and their families should be accessible to the general public. No elected official should have the audacity to misuse power or misappropriate funds. And if they do, the penalties must be extraordinary and exemplary. An office clerk should have such blind faith in social justice that he can report a bribe acceptance by his officer. We shall drive a hard bargain for our leaders but it also means that as a nation we must be willing to pay dearly. And the burden of responsibility shall be borne by every civilian. And then investing in the roads, bridges, amenities and technology will make sense to the common man. A starving citizen will be forever blind to the brilliance of building metro buses and bullet trains.

The rich must pay taxes according to their worth and make sure their money gets into good use. The landowners and industrialists must ensure the education, health and wellbeing of their tenants and workers. The poor should not be deprived of their share of responsibility either. Each and every man and woman must work to earn a living. No one should get a free ride. Beggars and criminals must be dealt with iron hands. The state must watch over the rights of women, children, minorities, etc. No man should be allowed to procreate beyond his means. If a man has ten children and cannot feed them, he should be answerable to the law and to the society. Every person must have religious freedom provided he does not force his views on anyone else.

We can start this campaign in our own homes, our work places and then, in the general community. The idea is to have a balanced, satiated society. Terrorists harbor in dark cesspools of poverty, illiteracy and deprivation. Remove these and you lay the foundation of a model society. I can already hear the cynics scoff at this utopian model of Pakistan. But I plead to their common sense. Our dreams have to be a thousand percent perfect. When we aim high, we achieve something even when we fail. I refuse to believe that we cannot achieve this tolerant, fair and peaceful country. I know people from all walks of life competing in innumerable professions in every country in the world. That is a great example of what our nation is made of. We have the choicest brawn and brains among us. What if those of us who are extra blessed by the Omnipotent decide to pass on some of our blessings? My dream is to mentor, educate and feed fifty orphans or less fortunate children in my lifetime. When I die, I hope and pray they all have prosperous families and professions. I will only ask them to return this favor by caring for fifty orphans in their entire life. My question is if it is doable, how many of us will take up this little dream and make the world a better place for our born and unborn children. In the end we are not just citizens of Pakistan but also citizens of the world, and we have to start the charity at home.


I have shed my shell and here I am a new being with a new skin. I have learnt to deceive, cheat, manipulate and move on unaffected. I had looked down upon such character traits all of my life and now I have become one of them. It is a survival tactic they say, but I know I had to die partly to survive. The essence of who I was died in the fray and perhaps the biggest torment is the realization that no one noticed how much I have changed. I am numb with pain. No amount of misery makes me cry anymore and no joys touch my heart. Life has drained off and the little color that stains my cheeks is the crimson blood that has leaked into the subcutaneous vessels. No one seems to notice the deadly pallor while the world praises the rosy cheeks. I chuckle inwardly but it sounds more like a cynical snort. It is funny how people notice the slightest graying hair and the crow’s feet beneath your eyes, but when you truly deeply are hurt and tormented beyond belief, they cannot see the shattered glass you walk on every day. Blindness has taken on a completely new meaning. I live in a blind, deaf and mute world. Or so I think. I have ceased to live a long time back; the carcass has just not been laid to rest.

As I think of these dark, dismal thoughts the past year swirls before my eyes. Friends found, love lost, relationships buried and faith annihilated. It was one hell of a year. I started out as a doe eyed, hopeful utopian and ended up as a sarcastic, faithless realist. Everything in the world came with a bittersweet bumper sticker saying welcome to life as we know it. And the best part of the deal is that this transition has given incredible successes and achievements in its momentum and the loss is visible to my heart and soul only. I suffer as the world cheers my triumphs for I alone am aware of the price I paid to get here. It is a lonely place at the top. The view is spectacular though and one can count all friends and enemies accurately down to the last decimal. Unfortunately, this insight highlights an immensely sad scenario. At any given moment in life, the list of true friends will be embarrassingly minuscule and the opponents will be uncountable. People will sell off your interests for a petty price, abandon you in the smallest traces of trouble and disappoint you in ways you never thought possible. And that one person you could die for will walk away without looking back as his promises echo in your mind. Growing up is a painful, miserable process that has the capacity to drain all of your positive energies and hope, leaving behind raw wisdom.

As I begin to attempt writing about my journey, words start pouring out of my mind. There are so many things to say and so many heartwarming stories to share. The long lost friend, who stood by my side when everyone else had abandoned me. The gallant hero, who fought with me at every battlefront and protected me with his courage and wisdom. The simple peasant, who had nothing to share but refused to leave my side in the worst of times. These are people I will love and respect all of my life. Sadly, there is a long list of shady characters who lied, cheated and deceived me. They taught me that it is alright to give them a taste of their own medicine. And then I treated them the way they treated me in my time of need. Even though I am not one of them but I had to teach all of them a lesson so that the next simple hearted victim does not seem fair game to them. The most hurtful stories are of people whom I loved and trusted and they walked all over me. With them I have nothing but silence to share. Their crimes cannot be punished accordingly and the worst I can do is to remove them completely from my life. And thus I vow to hold back my love, concern and presence from them for as long as I live.

I have changed completely. I watch my reflection in the mirror. The laugh lines have been replaced by worry lines. I have a good one thousand one hundred and eleven frown now. I have lost my capacity to smile without a reason. The grays have begun to show and I look more distinguished. I have stopped seeking acceptance and have acquired the devil may care attitude. I look confident and successful in every way. I have learnt the skill of initiating instant rudeness and disrespect and have finally overridden my convent education. I have learnt to weep inwardly and my tears have dried off. And lastly, I have learnt to forgive myself for making human errors and have stepped down from the sainthood pedestal. It is truly liberating to be able to sin and not lose sleep over it. I am sure I have finally grown up and God will understand my need to be human and will forgive divinely.

Like every birth, mine has come with equal portions of pain and joy. When a child is born into the world, we forget amidst our celebrations that the fetal world was annihilated to make the transition possible. Somewhere in our genetic memory we know that the cycle of life and death is continuous in nature. The colors of fall commemorate the dying process of fauna and flora but they are not less beautiful than the blooming hues of spring. While my transition is being silently mourned by my soul, I know Providence has a journey planned for me for which I have been trained. Without this amount of anguish I would have never known my inner strength and resolve. Without being surrounded by traitors, false friends and selfish people, I could never appreciate the unconditional love of my true friends. And if I had not been manipulated and cheated in love, I could never find such liberation in uniting with my soul mate. All of the tribulations I have faced, even though they will sting time and time again, I am deeply thankful for. I may never be the same person again, but I know I can fall and rise every time life betrays me. My new skin changes colors but my core remains constantly good and I am forever indebted to God for testing my mettle and proving my worth to me.