Karachi’s Diwalis Are Getting Quieter By The Year, And Here’s Why

Buzzfeed: November 17, 2015

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It’s easy to forget that it’s Diwali here in Karachi. On Wednesday evening at the Shri Laxmi Narayan Mandir, the temple’s caretaker Kailash Wishram has just returned from work.

“It was not a holiday for us today and nor will I get the day off tomorrow,” he explains. “I work with a lawyer and I asked him if I could leave early as I had to finish shopping for my kids.”

His two daughters, aged two and four, are dressed identically in lettered baseball jackets. They’re waiting for their father to take them out for ice-cream.

On the floor near the puja ghar, plates of coloured rice have been placed next to a deg of homemade halva. Kailash’s wife fixes the goddess Laxmi’s crown and adjusts golden tinsel draped on the idol.

“Out!” she says, snapping her fingers towards the door. “We aren’t ready yet.”

Full story here

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Have the Lahore Church Bombings and the Lynchings that Followed Revealed Rifts Within Pakistan’s Christian Community?

The Caravan Magazine: March 27, 20156

It was a little after 11 am on Sunday, 15 March 2015. Asher Naveed, a member of the parish council and a voluntary security guard at Lahore’s Christ Church in Youhanabad, was sitting at the back of the church with seven other members of the security team. Glancing at his watch, Naveed realized that the sermon had gone on for longer than usual; by now, congregants who did not want to join in the Communion would ordinarily be leaving the church. One man, his wife and daughter, snuck out from the pews, headed towards Naveed, and asked him to open the church doors so they could leave.

Less than a minute after the family walked out, Naveed heard the man’s motorbike rev up, followed by the sound of gunshots.

“I heard five or six shots, in quick succession,” Naveed recalled when he spoke to me. In the few seconds of silence that followed, one of guards headed to a small door near the entrance. “We thought it was some miscreants causing a commotion outside, or at worst, a shooting between people from the neighbourhood (Youhanabad),” Naveed said. The guard cracked the door open and peered outside; seconds later, he was swept off his feet and thrown backwards into the church by the force of an explosion.

“Everything was grey,” Naveed recalled. “I remember thinking, as I looked outside the door that had been blasted open, that our congregants had come to church dressed in such beautiful, colourful clothes. But I could see none of that colour, everything had turned grey.”

Through the smoke and debris, Naveed told me that he spotted what he thought was the suicide bomber’s leg. “The minute I saw body parts, we closed the door so people would not rush out and see that,” he said. “All I could think of was how the sermon had gone on longer than usual that day. If it hadn’t, imagine how many families would have been outside the church when the bombings took place.”

The attacks on 15 March were the worst on Pakistan’s Christian community since a double suicide bombing at a church in Peshawar in September 2013 that left nearly one hundred people dead. The community—which makes up roughly 2 percent of Pakistan’s population of more than 180 million people—lost nineteen people in the bombings at Christ Church and Roman Catholic Church, located half a kilometer apart in Lahore’s Youhanabad neighbourhood, home to an estimated 100,000 Christians. Two Christians were killed the following day as a panicked driver tried to make her way through a crowd of protestors, running over fourteen people.

Full story here

More photos here

(First photo by me; photo below by Umar Ali)

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Local colour: Celebrating Holi in Tharparkar

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The Express Tribune: March 23, 2014

It is the second day of Holi in Umerkot. PTI MNA Lal Malhi is receiving a stream of revellers at his home. Their hands fuschia, they are served lassi and plates of ghevar — crisp and sticky, these yellow noodle-thin strands are syrupy sweet. Chairs line the walls of a long reception area, leading the way to a high-backed leather armchair, the tallest chair in the room.

Malhi is perched on a chair next to this imposing seat — his face and hands a deep aubergine, his chest speckled with glitter, he’s trying not to colour all that he touches.

“People asked me today how they should celebrate,” he says, referring to the news of riots and the destruction of a temple in Larkana on Sunday, the first day of Holi. “The news from Larkana has left a weight on our hearts but we’re also thinking of all those families in the villages, those who have migrated, those who have lost their children.” Malhi told his constituents to celebrate as they always have, to give thanks for all they are grateful for. “Whatever happened yesterday or what happens today, Allah maalik hai,” he says. “There will be more bad times and more good times, but we should celebrate now without fear.”

 

Link to the article in the Tribune 

Bad for business

The Herald: March 2012

Bad for business

The Khatm-e-Nabuwat Lawyers’ Forum’s proposed ban of Shezan products is yet another illegal action against Ahmadi business-owners, who continue to face violent persecution in the absence of state intervention.

In the summer of 2011, TA (name withheld), a shop owner based in Faisalabad, received a call on his mobile phone. The man on the other end of the line refused to identify himself, but he knew TA’s name. His motives became clearer when he asked, “Tum Jamaat e Ahmadiyya mein kya kartey ho?” (What do you do within the Jamaat e Ahmadiyya?)

“Who is this?” persisted TA. “How did you get my number?”

“Khuda ko banda dhoond leta hai, tum kya ho?” replied the man, before he hung up. (trans)

TA continued to receive a slew of text messages as well as other such phone calls. One message read, “You liar Ahmadi. You better accept the truth. Warna toh apna intezaam kar lo.” (trans)

Such communication has become routine, he tells the Herald, after he was named in a pamphlet distributed in June 2011, at eight Clock Tower bazaars in Faisalabad. “My friend saw a couple of men who looked like mazdoors distribute these pamphlets outside our shops,” TA says. “When we took a look, we realized how dangerous they were.” The pamphlet reads “Qadiyanis are deserving of death” and “To shoot such people in public view is jihad and it is a blessing to kill them.” 

Link to PDF of full article