Too cute! This boy walked down the street with his little sister telling her about Pakistan’s political parties.
Virtually none of the public schools in and around Pakistan’s capital Islamabad have libraries.
But the Bright Star Mobile Library is now helping to fill in this gap.
On a cold, rainy morning, the van pulls up outside a rural elementary school on the outskirts of Islamabad.
The fluorescent green vehicle provides a flash of color on this otherwise gray day. There’s a picture of children reading books under a large apple tree, and the words “Reading is fun” are painted in English and Urdu, the national language in Pakistan.
Volunteer Ameena Khan starts pulling books from shelves on either side of the van.
“One is called Faces and one’s an Urdu book,” she says. “We’re doing Bears on Wheels, which is a nice counting book. Fourth grade is going to read their own books.”
The younger children gather to hear Khan read. The girls, bright-eyed and engaged, sit cross-legged on the floor in neat rows.
In Pakistan, rarely a day goes by without news of a bombing or an attack by militants. Many young Pakistanis have grown up in the grip of religious extremism, and there’s little sign that that is likely to change in the near future.
But the founder of the Bright Star bookmobile, Saeed Malik, is trying to reverse that trend, starting at the most basic level.
“I felt, in what way can we bring these kids back to the beauty of life, to the beauty of future, to be of value to fellow mankind and to themselves and to the country,” he says. “And I started thinking in what way can we help the children.”
Photographs by Jackie Northam.
I am Gujjar from my father’s side. My tribe is Kasana.
In South and Central Asia, Gujjar (Gojjar/Gojri/Göçer/Gurjar people) - like any other ethnic group - face stereotyping so usually people don’t know about our history, tribes, presence in different countries or lifestyles. I thought I should clear a few things up. The man in the photo above is Gujjar and he is seen with his cattle. He is wearing a pakol which is usually worn by Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also by other ethnic groups especially during winters.
Gujjars form one of the biggest tribes in the world. We speak Gojri. We are found in Afghanistan in the Kunar province, Pakistan in North and Central Punjab as well as Chitral and Baltistan, Himachal Pradesh, Tibet, Nepal, Georgia and Tatarstan. Because we follow a pastoral, semi-nomadic lifestyle settled centering around dairy farming, we are often seen as “backward” and “primitive” by urban dwellers. Many of us live in cities but maintain very strong ties with our backgrounds. For instance: My father still has cattle in the village and makes an income off it. Similarly I have cousins who are in the north of Pakistan and live as nomads. But many Gujjars live in urban and rural Punjab, Pakistan now and are collectively labelled Punjabi. They work and live here.
The assignment of work in terms of gender in nomadic Gujjar people is very interesting. Women are expected to do the same kind of work men do with a few expectations. Which explains why Gujjar women - because of their physical characteristics and work - are often stereotyped as ‘strong, ruthless and rough.’ Gujjar men are stereotyped in movies as brutal, loud and powerful men. In reality, we’re just an ethnic group that wants to be left in peace.
Anthropologists have conducted studies on the Gujjar people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We have our own traditional clothes about which P.K. Mohanty has written: “The dress of a Gujjar woman of the hills in the valley is very much similar to that worn by the Turkish village women. It consists of as ample shalwar and full-skirted tunic with loose sleeves. A thick veil on the head falls back to the shoulders. The Gujjar woman knit their hair in multiple plaits which hang in front, covering half of their moon-shaped faces.”
Gujjar people are labelled Other Backward Class (OBC) in some states in India which had led to them being ostracized. Many Gujjars fought against the USSR and joined various factions in uprisings during 1857 in India against the British Empire.
We have many tribes. Kasana, Katana, Vario, Chechi, Mella, Van, etc. I should probably upload a photo of me in traditional Gujjar clothes. Meanwhile let’s just sit back and take in the sight of my fellow Gujjar man and his cattle.
‘Bicycling’ - He believes that that only way there could be change in Pakistan is through educational reforms. He was a secondary school teacher since the last 30 odd years.
Photography by Fatyma Rizvi
“To belong to Lahore is to be steeped in its romance, to inhale with each breath an intensity of feeling that demands expression.” - Bapsi Sidhwa. One of the truest things said about #Lahore. #Pakistan
Urdu messages on Pakistani trucks once again. I love this one a lot. And look at the lovely Pakistani art on it as well.
Urdu: “Dil baraye farokht qeemat: Sirf aik muskrahat.”
Translation: Heart for sale. Buy with one smile only.
This is a little guy playing football in Pakistan.
He is focused on his strike. Great picture.
Children need safety, security for emotional stability and strong, stable growth.
I also know they need to play. They always need to play.
The world in insane. Children die at the hands of tyrants, sectarian violence, misogyny, hatred and ignorance.
Violent acts in the name of culture, religion and power.
Their innocence is disregarded. Their names are ignored.
These children should play. They should have clean water. Access to health care, education and affordable housing.
They should be safe- to play.
Sometimes all it takes is a ball. To restore some joy, hope and forget their despair, struggles and difficulties.
They just need to play.
pic via United Nations Economic and Social Council
A good friend of mine told me today that her father was shot in 2004 when he came out of the hospital where he worked in, towards the parking lot. He wasn’t even the actual target. There had been killings of Shia doctors at that time and another doctor was to be targeted but my friend’s father (who was a Sunni) came in the way. The other doctor had always parked his car in this specific place but on that day, my friend’s father had parked his own over there. It was night time and the shooter didn’t even paused to check who he was targeting.
My friend was only eight at that time, she had a brother younger than her as well and her mother was one month pregnant with another child at that time. Their marriage hadn’t even exceeded a decade.
I don’t know how my friend had the strength to relate this incident to me because i started crying in the very middle of it. Yet, the only thing my friend uttered afterwards was that people don’t realize while murdering doctors that they have patients dependent on them, that they are actually working for the humankind. She didn’t rant about how unfair it was for her own family, to be deprived of a father at such an early age. She said that yes it was unfair but it was more unfair for the people who were depending on her father.
I am truly inspired by her and her faith in Allah. At times you come across people who have an immensly beautfiul soul and if you are lucky enough, you even get to own a part of them. I guess i am one of the luckiest people in the earth because even though i don’t have many friends, but the ones i do, all have beautiful souls. May Allah grant my friend’s father eternal paradise and peace in his grave. May my friend and her rest of the family continue to live a righteous life and get the highest places in Jannah. Ameen.
Chai in empress market… Bustling city streets leading to my favorite fake watch store near paradise hotel… Yards and yards of cloth - for suits, for shirts, for men, for women, for friends… Sugarcane juice… Slimy mangoes trickling down to my elbows…honking..screeching..screaming - the sounds of life and limb, all squeezed into one cacophonous rattle… Quiet walks at jheel park followed by busy afternoons at kurta bazaar… The stench of garbage, the sweet smell of tikkas, the irritable burning rubber… The smell of old books… and the calming seaside… Karachi, my love, I’m coming.
Now if you’d get off my lap and let me draw a comparison between UK and US political systems.