In Memory of the Slain

At SZABIST, the students held a candlelight vigil in memory of those slain in the name of blasphemy.

Over the last month a Christian couple in the town of Kot Radha Kishan, some 60 kilometers southwest of Lahore were beaten and burnt to death after they were accused of blasphemy by their creditor, which was followed by another horrifying and deplorable incident in Gujrat where a man in police custody was hacked to death by an axe wielding police officer, again in the name of blasphemy.

Below is the speech I gave at the occasion.


We have all gathered here today because we chose to not to remain silent on the brutal murder of Shama and Shehzad.

They both were burnt alive in the same place where they worked all their lives as a bonded labor.

That fateful day, it wasn’t just the two of them who were killed: Shama was four months pregnant.

But this isn’t about just these two.

According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, between 1st January 2013 and 31st December 2013, there were 540 ‘victims’ of blasphemy.

When we step into law school, in the first year we are taught about the values of Rule of Law; that no one is above the law. We are taught that no one can be sentenced or punished without due process of the law.

Sadly, 540 fellow citizens were condemned to their horrifying deaths last year by mobs, by lunatics, by murders, after they were accused of blasphemy. In this country, as rule of law erodes, we are facing increasing incidents of extra-judicial killings, vigilante justice and rising crime.

Yes, it is a crime to take someone’s life. Yes it is a crime to burn someone alive, or to hack someone to death. Sadly this has happened over the past week in our country.

This is a country, where even lawyers are killed for defending a blasphemy accused in a court of law, where politicians calling for reform of these laws are killed. I am talking about Rashid Rehman, a lawyer murdered because he was defending a blasphemy accused in court, I am talking about Salaman Taseer and Shahbaz Bhatti.

We all agree that this heinous crime must not go unpunished. We wish to see these killers being brought to justice.

Because as the saying goes:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Happy News: Once in a Blue Moon

I love discussions over current political situations and scenarios, read and watch the news (almost) everyday, and have friends and family to discuss the news with. It occurs to me:

Collection of negative news headlines
The most fequently seen headlines!

“Why is the news so negative

Every news-person and journalist I happened to inquire, gave me the response on these lines:

“Negative? This is reality. The world is a bad place. Bad things happen. We’re trying to make the world better by telling people about it the way it is. People murder their families. Kids and teens are kidnapped. Terrorists are trying to kill you; bomb blasts happen everyday. Dozens of people are being shot dead everyday. We’re at war. The politicians, the government, are corrupt; the army, the judiciary and agencies are plotting against you. Incredible car accidents, train wrecks and plane crashes take place on a regular basis and you need to know about them. The world is giving you cancer. Terrible plagues are on their way. Climate change is here, and we’re all going to die.”

breaking-newsWhat is wrong with all this? This is the reality we’re made to believe each time we switch on the T.V., isn’t it?

I love newspapers and TV news, and I’ve mostly seen negativity as a by-product of freedom of the press – freedom to criticize those is power and expose crime, corruption, inaction, inequality and injustices. But in the last few years, something changed. I started finding news, TV news in particular, irritating, painful, disturbing, even traumatic. Repetitive. Torturous. Paranoid. Overkill. I’d turn on Geo and hear an unrelenting charge of corruption, accusations against the government, inflation, instability, murders, deaths, explosions, disasters, tragedies, terrorists and apocalyptic predictions.

Perhaps the world has simply gotten worse in the last decade. Climate change, terrorism, hyperinflation, economic decline, and war have made the news cycle more frightening. But I don’t think viewers take issue with this type of negativity. They understand the state of the world. They watch the news.

This is what is meant by negative:

NewsCastYou see a dry, windy day, the media see climate change. You see a road, the media sees car accidents, traffic jams, and pollution. You see a protest and the media shouts that the government must go. You see a religious festival or public holiday ahead, the media alert us a terrorist attack is imminent. You see an empty street, the media see street crimes, armed robberies and target killings. You see a glass half-full, the media tell you the remaining water in that glass could be contaminated with cyanide by terrorists. You say: “Have a nice day,” the media say: “It started off as a nice day, but it ended in murder, car accidents, a fire, bank robberies, a frightening new trend and arrests. Detailed news after the break.”

If you had a friend who talked like TV news, you’d probably think that friend was an idiot, paranoid, hyper, morbid, manic and clinically depressed.

Television networks, particularly 24-hour news networks, come alive when a war starts. This is no accident. War reporting is one of journalism’s core assignments and, not accidentally, the greatest driver of ratings.

War and its attendant horrors might have forged and woven the very fabric of journalism. Some people say that the popular inverted pyramid reporting style has its roots in war. War reporters, always fearful of having their stories cut off by the telegraph, wrote stories in a hierarchy of carnage where the deaths came first, followed by injuries.

While this theory is disputed, the pyramid style persists and has a led to an obsession with body counts and violence. Stories are more important if more people die, and readers find that news stories trail off without any kind of … conclusion. They’ll show you an accident, but they won’t tell you why it happened or how to prevent it next time.

And the very language of journalism is said to have come from war. A politician will face a “barrage of questions,” bills are “torpedoed” and exciting new books are “explosive.” In Pakistan, the evening news has something related to this: “Today, 15 people were shot dead in different parts of Karachi” being accompanied by images of an ambulance being sent off from the crime scene, the traumatized victim or his/her dead body being moved around in the hospital and finally scenes of crying and wailing women and then men. After the final ‘sensational’ development of the news, the channels would lay claims that they were the first ones to break the news first to you.

The number of dead are reported in this manner: “The explosion claimed 31 lives, which included 24 women and children”. 31 and 24 seen quite high together, a psychological effect intended at creating a sensation, and spark interest (read: horror) among the viewers, to keep them glued to their seats, make them depressed.

EVERYTHING IS FINE!
If everything was fine, would you read the newspaper?

Perhaps people have gotten hooked on negative news the way people got hooked on junk food. And here is perhaps the most popular argument in favor of media negativity. It’s what the people want. But is it really?

Good and happy news are flashed on the TV too, like winning a cricket or hockey match, but isn’t that too short lived, and not given the attention it duly deserves? Would you like to listen to any good news?

If the media are too negative, there is one person who might have the power and the ideas to change it.

That’s you!

Confessions of a writoholic!

Extract from the Personal Diary of Ahmer Jamil Khan
An extract of the diary I write each.

No matter how much you love to write, there are times when you’re writing, or planning to write and you can’t think of something. Writing is an art of expression, just as speech is. Many people express themselves by their speech, some do that better by writing, but there are some unique cases that can express themselves to the fullest only after speaking what they’ve written; more like a prepared speech.

Some people write, because they have an inner urge to write or they might simply feel like writing; others do it because they have to, either because they’re a student and have to sit for a language exam and are writing on a given topic or a topic of their choice from the options given to them, or because they’re paid to do so, like writing a review, a how-to instruction, news, or any thing of that sorts. For the former, writing in fun, enjoyable and easy, for the latter, it may be either fun, enjoyable and easy or it may be a herculean task, burdened upon them which they must endure with patience.

I consider myself in the first category; I write a diary, a daily journal or log of what happened each day, my feelings, emotions, dreams, desires, wishes, feelings, any and everything that occurred to me whether no matter how pleasant or bitter it may be (I try to curtail and distort the bitter part however, for reasons to be discussed earlier on), I know no one is ever going to read my personal diary, not that any one may or may not be interested in reading, but because to read it they’d need an extraordinarily long password, and my fingerprints! Yes! My personal diary is encrypted in a manner similar to how the any intelligence agency may encrypt, secure and store information pertinent to global or national security. Well, honestly, there is nothing of that sort in my personal diary, really, but its just not that I cannot risk it getting into wrong hands and earning me some embarrassing moments; it is also encrypted so securely because, simply put, I can do it!

Why I write my diary? Well it is just so that I may, in my free time revisit the past joyous moments and re-live all the happiness in my life! Trust me it just works this way! Reading about what I wrote in the vacations on the chilly mountain peak besides the fast flowing river reminds me of the natural beauty, excites my senses and brings me back to those moments, to enjoy life’s most joyous moments once again! I’m a writoholic, addicted to writing! Apart form that I write a blog, you know, the one you’re reading right now!

So how do I come up with things to write? Well, to start off with, I must first confess, my best friend said that “I’m maturer than my age”, well I guess that’s why my thoughts and believes differ from those held by the majority in my age group. I believe in equality of every person, freedoms and fundamental rights, I’m a staunch believer of parliamentary democracy, equal justice under law and rule of law. Not the kind of believes and mindset of a typical 18 year old in Karachi, Pakistan, or perhaps around the world. I’m quite interested in scientific research, researches on human psychology, social interactions, physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and so much more. Such thoughts, believes and interests inspire me to write about many things (which do not interest many of my age group).

Then why do I write? Just for the sake of it! Writing is my expression, just as speech is my expression!

How do I get inspired about writing?

Well here it goes:

  1. Daily occurrences: There’s so much happening around us all the time, so many arenas look around: sports, politics, celebrity news, gossip, new developments!
  2. Overheard dialog: If I’m anywhere public, whether it be at a park, bus, a waiting area or a mall or my school, sometimes I’ll eavesdrop on people. Not in a gross way or anything, but I’ll just keep quiet, and listen. I love hearing other people have conversations. Sometimes it doesn’t happen on purpose — you can’t help but overhear people sometimes. If you happen to overhear a snippet of interesting dialog, jot it down in your writing journal or on your smart phone (like me) as soon as possible. It can serve as a model or inspiration for later writing.
  3. Google: Stuck for ideas? The old standby, Google, has often helped me out. I’ll just search for the topic I’m writing about and find tons of great resources.
  4. Free writing: One of the best ways to get unstuck if you’re uninspired. Just start writing. Anything. It doesn’t matter. Don’t edit, don’t pause, don’t think. Just write and let it flow. You’ll end up with a lot of garbage, probably, but it’ll help you get out of your rut and you might just write some really good stuff among all that garbage.
  5. Brainstorms: Similar to free writing, but instead of writing prose you’re writing ideas. Just let them flow. Speed and quantity is more important than quality. Within this brainstorm of ideas, you’ll most likely find a few nuggets of greatness. One of my favorite ways to get ideas.
  6. Newspapers: The newspapers are a great resource. Not just news, you also get to read opinion of people, their views etc. I prefer the online version where people actually comment under each and every news article.
  7. Exercise: I get my best ideas most often while running. There’s something about the quietness, combined with the increased flow of blood through your brain, combined with being out in the fresh air with nature, that really stimulates the mind.
  8. Religion. Many of you aren’t religious (and many are) but it doesn’t matter much — the great religions in the world have ideas in them that are beautiful and inspiring. I’ve studied some of the writings of not only Islam, but Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Scientology, Raëlism and many cultures with a single god, multiple nature gods, or no gods at all, yes, I studied them all! I can’t say I’m an expert at any of these religions, but I can say that any time I’ve spent reading the ideas of religion have paid off for me in inspiration.

So what do you write about, if you do at all? Write about it in the comments below!

Time is a Great Teacher, but does it Kill its Pupil?

Time is indeed a great teacher. It has taught many lessons, great and small, to all its eagerly learning pupil. History teaches us many lessons from notable examples, on a great personality’s vision or inspiration or a great tyrant’s mistakes. All these stories have something for us, a lesson or a moral.

All those great people in history were born just as innocent and naïve as any other baby anywhere in the world. They made mistakes and learned from their own and the mistakes of those before them. These lessons that they learnt over time, made them stand out of the masses of millions who lived in their times.

But no one lives forever, and so is with all great personalities. Everyone dies when their time here ends, leaving only their legacy and marks in books of history behind.

Everyone comes in the world and lives their lives and then die. But only those who did something of great importance in the world are remembered. Everyone here, I am sure, knows Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, Alfred Noble, Galileo Galilee, Leonardo da Vinci, the Wright Brothers, and many other great personalities who excelled at what they did, but could anyone here name any other person who lived in their times in the same neighborhood, or in the same city as of any on these?

Well, I don’t think so. So, you see my friends, time doesn’t kill its pupil. Its pupil, stay engraved in the pages of history, as those who molded and shaped the world or its future. Mahatma Gandhi is credited for leading the Indian independence movement and Muhammad Ali Jinnah is credited for creating Pakistan. Edison for creating the light bulb, Einstein, Newton, Galileo and Noble for their brilliance and excellence in their fields of work and setting the principals of sciences, da Vinci for his famous paintings and visionary ideas and the Wright brothers for making the first aircraft.

These personalities were pupil of time; they learned over time and then did what made them stand out of the masses in their limited time on Earth, so that when they left the world, they still live on in our memories and the memories of generations to come.

So my friends, time doesn’t kill its pupil, it keeps them alive forever in the hearts of the masses and the pages of history.

Ahmer Jamil Khan

Award Ceremony 2012 Speech

Ahmer Jamil Khan

The following is the text of the speech I delivered at the Award Ceremony 2012, at St. Michael’s Convent School.
The main theme of the speech was why I had decided to do my A Levels from St. Michael’s Convent School.

Respected Principal and Deputy Principal, Honorable Parents and Teachers and my fellow students.

Welcome to the Annual Award Ceremony 2011-2012.

Today, it is my honor and privilege to stand up here, and address the bright and outstanding students of our prestigious institution, and their proud and esteemed parents.

The Annual Award Ceremony, is one of the school events that I have attended almost every calendar year, sitting here in the crowd as one of these high achievers.

I joined this institution, back in 1998, in the Lower Nursery. I still remember the first day at school, when I was left at my class, where the teacher welcomed me in. That day was the first step of my journey, 15th and last year of which began this 1st of August. This journey has been a long, yet interesting one.

I achieved a lot during this journey, the credit of which goes to my parents, teachers and my institution, who have molded and shaped my character, and made me what I am today.

This journey has been a wonderful one, I made really good friends, learned a lot of new things, and had fun doing so. I really looked forward to the school opening after vacations. It became a second home for me, and all my friends.

Out of my wonderful time in school, there have been moments where I felt like being nagged by my teachers, or felt the school rules were too harsh and too strict upon me. Not being allowed in class for coming in an improper uniform, or for forgetting books, these rules may indeed seem harsh to a young student.

But looking back at those moments, I realize that it was the concern of my teachers and the institution; they could have easily chosen to ignore our mistakes and mischief, but they did not. This decision of theirs has had made a lasting impact on me and all my fellow students. This changed our carefree and forgetful habits, transformed us into prim and proper pupil. That has made us stand out of the rest.

Now I say with pride, I am really lucky to have concerned and caring parents and teachers.

The school has always provided us with a fair and healthy competitive environment in every field, be that sports, academics or extracurricular activities, and has always encouraged us to do our best and to strive for perfection in anything we do. The school has always appreciated me in each and every of my achievements. All these have been really motivating factors.

Like me, every student has a reputation which they made for themselves, they have a recognition, and they have a fair chance in every opportunity that comes our way. The school has prepared us to face all the cut throat challenges life has in store for us.

Keeping in mind my qualities and capabilities, the school made me the Deputy Head Boy in the O Levels.

I got an excellent set of results in the O levels, which included a distinction.

Like all my achievements, the school duly appreciated my achievement, and awarded 100% scholarship to me in the A levels.

The school is like a second home, to me, and to all my friends. I did not even think about leaving the school in the A levels. And so I came back here for A levels. That was a decision I cherish every moment.

In the A levels, I was sent to the National Science Talent Competition, by the school. There, I made it to the top 50, out of thousands of high achievers from institutions across Pakistan. I was proud to represent our institution there.

This year I became the Head Boy of our School.

They say, “The journey of a thousand miles, begins with the first step.” St. Michael’s provided me with the first step which will lead me to my future journey in the professional field.

Finally, I would like to use this opportunity to thank my parents, all my teachers, and our institution, for making me what I am today. I would especially like to thank our Principal Mr. Peter Misquita, and our Deputy Principal Mrs. Seema Nayier, thank you so much for everything you have done for us and our institution. Without you our institution wouldn’t be where it is today.

Thank you everyone for your time.

Ahmer Jamil Khan

Positive Thinking

Following is the text of my speech on Friday, 10th August 2012 before the Assembly of students at St. Michael’s Convent School. The speech was titled ‘Positive Thinking’, was a part of my personal effort to reduce, if not eradicate negativity and negative thinking from my fellow students’ minds.

Respected Deputy Principal, teachers and my fellow students. I am Ahmer Jamil Khan.

I’m here to share a few things with you all…

I think I just heard someone back there say, “abay yaar phir ek lambi speech” (Another long speech). Well, is this the attitude we have to start our day with? Negative thoughts, negative speech, negative actions and all this leads to a negative approach to life.

But why shouldn’t we be so negative? There are problems everywhere, in everyone’s life, getting scolded by our parents, being nagged by our teachers, and there are those nose poking neighbors, friends who are no better than pests, and then she said this to me, he said that to me, life is so unfair for those with a negative attitude…

Some of us have a really very negative approach to life and all the things that come our way, and when someone says something negative, others around them get carried away. People with a negative attitude have reasons to justify their attitude.

But friends, I have learnt, negative attitude to anything can never be justified. If I call anyone up here to tell us what’s wrong with the school, I’m sure many people can come up with some reasons to dislike our school. But did anyone ever realize how fortunate we are to be in this institution, or how fortunate we are to be able to receive good education here, can someone count the blessings they have?

Why do we have to complain about the one thing that we do not have, when there are 9 other things that we do have.

If someone can come up with 10 reasons to dislike our country, there are 90 reasons to love it!

I just checked this morning, 925 million people in the world are undernourished and 6 million children die of starvation each year! We have had a good meal this morning!

Our negative thinking takes up most of our attention, and we do not realize all the good things in life that we are missing out on.

A really good approach I found to tackle this problem, I write a diary every day. I only mention the good things that happened to me each day, and I also mention all the good things I did in the day. By doing this I realized how beautiful life is, how fair things are, and how easily I neglected the blessings I have.

Sometimes life hits us with a brick in the face. When it does, never lose hope, and never curse, but try to appreciate this as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes, try to appreciate the experience gained from that.

We should learn to appreciate our blessings before they are taken away? We should enjoy the things we have in life, instead of regretting over what we do not have, and to do this we need to change our attitude.

As Abraham Lincoln said, “People are only as happy as they want to be.” Really, happiness is a choice, and it’s up to us to choose to be positive or negative.

Life is too short to be unhappy. Let’s change our way of thinking, our attitude and let’s choose to be happy and see the magic.

Thank you all for your time.

Ahmer Jamil Khan