SHINE Humanity

SHINE Humanity is a registered NGO dedicated to providing high-quality healthcare and clean drinking water to underserved populations.

As President of SHINE Humanity’s Youth Board, I gave a presentation on SHINE’s charitable activities to the students and faculty of Karachi Grammar School.


Hunting Dragon-Slayers

My article for ARY Blogs:

Hunting Dragon-Slayers

The war on doctors in Pakistan and how we can end it.

Once upon a time, in a city by the sea, there lived a people haunted by dragons. These great beasts would pour forth fire and brimstone, leaving those touched by their wrath either dead or disabled. In time – as often happens in such stories – there arose an elite band of braves who rejected the status quo and travelled far and wide, sleeping little by day and studying much by night, in their ceaseless quest to discover the secret to the dragons’ destruction.

These scholar-soldiers called themselves ‘dragon-slayers’ (‘Dr.’, for short) and set up academies to train new heroes from the populace. They built strange, white castles called ‘hospitals’ to defeat the creatures and opened the gates to all who had been troubled by the foul beasts. They worked hard to perfect new potions and to test those potions rigorously before use. And, in contrast to all those who had claimed to be heroes before them, they used the immense power of the ancient magic of ‘science’ .

Through many years of trial and error, the heroes’ hard work paid off. Soon, many of the beasts had been quelled – the monster known as ‘small-pox’ was the first to be dispatched and soon others such as ‘TB’, ‘polio’ and ‘malaria’ were driven back to their caves – though they proved much harder to kill. The people rejoiced, for a time, but soon they took for granted the doings of these men of science and, while they respected them, they were ignorant of the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ behind the successes of these clean, white castles.

Eventually, a time came when some of them took to murdering the dragon-slayers who belonged to tribes different from theirs and, after each such killing, they would proudly proclaim their heinous crimes in the blood-drenched streets of that city by the sea. And all the while, the dragons grew stronger.

The heroes – disgusted at the unfairness of it all – packed up their families and potions and, wiping a small tear from the corner of their eyes, took one last, long look at their beloved motherland before pushing off into the stormy sea for distant lands. And with their passing, that strange, distant Land of the Pure sank deeper into a new dark age.

This fable is our reality.

Our doctors are leaving Pakistan.

Polio is on the rise.

Here’s what we can do about it:

· Learn how to use the mosque. A national, pan-sectarian consensus exists on the unlawfulness of the murder of innocents and the promise of hellfire for those who dare to do so. Proclaim it from the pulpit. Every pulpit. In every mosque. Repeat ad infinitum.

· Devolve, devolve, devolve. Have a small clinic attached to one mosque in every UC. It will be staffed by one doctor and will employ people of the same UC to promote the concept of ownership and to have transparency. Major roundabouts will have one ambulance – stationed at all times with a paramedic – donated by philanthropists of the same area who can see their money put to good, noble use. At the town level, there will be a larger trauma centre equipped with an X-ray machine and an ultrasound and the truama centres will, in turn, report to tertiary care facilities (e.g. Abbasi Shaheed). Most patients will be dealt with on the smaller levels to avoid swamping the tertiary care centre and to promote preventative, public health at the grassroots level.

· Educate. Make it mandatory for every madressah to have time devoted to basic scientific principles. Teach them about Avicenna and Rhazes, Avenzoar and Geber. It’s our fault for not reaching out to them and sitting in our white castles. It’s time we changed that.

This prescription is provided gratis with the hope that some version of it may one day be implemented, that our heroes may return and the dragons banished forevermore. 


Why You And I Are Not Civilised (Yet)

WE have vanquished slavery, sexism and racism or, at the very least, reached a near universal consensus on how bad they are and why they have no place in a civilised society.

The next great frontier isn’t space; it’s class. As long as the vast majority of humanity can be denied the opportunity to realise their untapped potential — reduced to mere shells of men, vying for scraps dished out by fickle gods — we cannot call ourselves civilised.

We are the same savages of old; forced to sell every second of every minute of our brutish, short, insignificant lives; forced to fight in the gigantic coliseum called society for the chance to extend our suffering by another day.

And all the while, we are watched —indifferently — by those who make the laws; pay the wages; and own the land, factories and faceless corporations.

Labour produces marvels, palaces, beauty, technology and skill, but only for the select few. The worker is left with the world of animal function — personal adornment, eating, drinking and sex — to give meaning to his pitiful existence.

What can one say about a society where profits are privatised and losses socialised?

What does one say about a world where the three richest individuals possess more financial assets than the lowest 48 nations combined? A world where some countries throw excess wheat into the sea while others struggle to feed masses of malnourished men.

Perhaps one day, many thousands of years hence, when everyone reading this will have long since turned to dust, and our words and thoughts and emotions will be as ancient as the sun: people will look back at us and denounce the homo sapiens of the 21st century as thugs, little better than the slave owners, racists and misogynists of ages past for they failed to see that — though man can be reduced to a savage, competitive, selfish brute — he has the potential to be so much more, if only given the chance to express himself creatively.

Inequality is the last great battle before we can embark on the next stage of our evolution as a species.

Civilisation has yet to arrive.

But we’ll get there.

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The Dark Side

First published in ‘The Ism’, the newspaper of the Karachi Grammar School World Affairs Society. 

OSLO was once a far away city, synonymous with the welfare state, aurora borealis and fjords. And then Anders Breivik went on a murderous rampage, and Oslo became as real as the violent, tempestuous Karachi outside my window.

It’s tragic enough that over sixty human beings were massacred, but the reality really hits home when you see them as the idealistic young men and women they were, the same age as you, with similar political convictions, united by a burning desire to serve their nation. And their dreams were shattered by a madman, who fed off of conspiracy theories and an Islamophobic discourse constructed by disgruntled, fringe elements of the right.

But the real reason this was so shockingly personal was that I knew Breivik. We all do. We’ve all come across people in our lives who hate entire communities for no rational reason, who write off entire nations on the basis of the actions of a single person. Many such individuals live in my country. The India-hating uncle, the Jew-hating cousin, and the colleague who is adamant that America is behind every bomb blast in Pakistan. They generalise that all people belonging to certain sects or races must all behave in the same way. But mankind isn’t like that. Time and time again, painstaking research has proven that there is more diversity in intelligence, behaviour and personality between people of the same community than people living on different continents. The idea of ‘race’, —that people with the same physical characteristics all behave the same way— has long been proven to be throughly unscientific nonsense.

Then why do enmities, grudges and stereotypes continue to exist? Because people are afraid of change, of anyone who is different. Xenophobia persists precisely because it is the easy way out. You’ve never been to a country, never roamed it’s streets, or spoken to it’s people. It’s safe to assume that all must be terrorists, who hate you and your way of life.

But if humanity is to embark on the next stage in it’s evolution as a species, we must be willing to put aside the superficial differences between us and embrace each other as fellow human beings. Only by letting go of prejudice can we open our eyes to the rich, diverse world around us. Every man is a story, a piece of that great jigsaw puzzle that is our history. It is precisely in these Manichean times that we must defeat the Breivik in us all and learn to truly see our vibrant, diverse world as a source of strength, not weakness. It is our differences, once we get around them that lead us to discover that people really aren’t so different after all. They may, at first, be scared, or wary of anyone who doesn’t look like them, but deep down all they want is to be accepted, and loved for who they are.



Martial law is darkness at high noon. It is neither an order nor a system.

This form of lawlessness will take us back to the law of the jungle, where only the strongest survive. Most of our people are weak and backward. They will perish in such an arrangement.

Force, naked and brute, moody and mad cannot be made the sole criterion of our honour and our respect.

Zulfi Bhutto, (1928-1979)

In the picture below, my maternal grandfather, Wg. Cdr. Saeed Akhtar, meets Mr. Bhutto at Badin Airforce Base, somewhen in the 70s.

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City: An Animal Farm

ONCE upon a time there was a large, seething, huddled mass of humanity, affectionately known as City.

A beautiful place full of concrete, asphalt and smog, City is a haven of in-Equality, Opp-ression and Conform-ITY. In fact, the national crest of City proudly bears the words: in-Equality, Opp-Ression, Conform-ITY.

There are three distinct ethnic groups in City. The dominant ones are called Boo. They can be identified from certain genetic traits such as their condescension for the other two groups; and their breath, which smells perpetually of sushi, French toast and Dubai.

The second group are the Proles. They are, according to a respectable English daily of City “the worst dregs of humanity to grace the earth. Slow, stupid and sluggish, Proles wouldn’t appreciate culture if it slapped them in the face after biting their behind. The poor animals spend their short, harsh days searching for Work and Food. This newspaper firmly believes that if they can not find Food they should eat Caviar, like the Boo do.” The Proles smell of hunger, fatalism and something that many have said bears an uncanny resemblance to the spit of the Boo.

The constituents of the third group are called WoMen. They are told from birth that the purpose of their existence is to be a source of Pleasure for Men. They try to do this by buying excessive quantities of exotic products called MakeUp and AnoreXiaNerVosa with which they hope to attract Men so that they can take them for mates and then be put to work in Work-Houses as House-Wives.

The people of City, like all good monotheists, worship one God. He is affectionately called CapitAL. CapitAL has laid down some Command-Ments that the people of City must follow religiously.

ONE: “WoMen are Slav-es.” (a) They must make Sand-Witches in the Kit-Chen and work 24-hour shifts as House-Wives for no pay. (b) At all times, more than 99% of the property in City must be controlled by Men. All heil CapitAL!

TWO: “in-Equality is E-quality.” (a) Only the Boo are fit to Rule. They are more HuMan than the Pro because they learn HuMan-ITY at Country-Clubs, Private-Schools and via Face-Twitter. (b) The Boo are to be paid at least 999,000,000,000,000,000 times more than the Pro because they are smarter, more intelligent and have larger brains. They deserve it because they were born to be Boo and because they go to Private-Schools where they become HuMan. All heil CapitAL!

THREE: “Conform-ITY is Life.” (a) Those who rebel in the name of accursed Individual-ITY must be put to death. Do not let pity move you. ‘Tis CapitAL’s Will. (b) School’s are to be factories of Conform-ITY. If any child does not Conform, he is to be labelled a Retard-LosER and put to sleep. All heil CapitAL!

City is chronically religious. It is dotted with temples to CapitAL. These temples are called Ban-KS. High priests worship at the temples from 9-5 everyday, sacrificing the blood of the Proles in their admirable, selfless quest to appease their God.

And now, some words on the curse of Individial-ITY. In every generation, some children are born who try their hardest to break the ancient, venerable tradition of Conform-ITY. If born as Proles, these vile rebels try their hardest to keep their hearts alive and not let the drudgery of every day life reduce them to mere flesh and bone. They refuse to be commodities, to be bought and sold by the Boo, preferring instead to live a blasphemous version of Life, where they do not obey the Command-Ments of CapitAL.

A good Boo child is brought up to know the cost of everything and the value of nothing, but a Retard-LosER child is less than HuMan because it feels that society is unfair and unjust and so this abomination is either put to sleep or exiled. If a Wo-Man she is made to watch episodes of Gossip-Wo-Men until brainwashed or until she dies of brain haemorrhage.

Some axioms of City merit mention:

First, the Axiom of Tautology: “Those who Work, acquire nothing; those who acquire anything, do not Work.”

Second, the Axiom
of NonSen: “The Boo are the Boo for the benefit of the Proles.”

Third, the Axiom of BullSh: “Political power is to be defined as merely the organized tyranny of one group over another.”

A peculiar trend among the inhabitants of City is that they all believe the year to be perpetually 1984. Also, some make mysterious, cryptic references to an Animal Farm, though most of those who do are promptly shut up in asylums where they are fed on a strict diet of Functionalism and FOX News.

Many of the Boo keep pets. The animals are fed on Food. It is a crime of the gravest order to let a pet die of starvation within the borders of City.

Every night, before going to bed, Boo
children whisper a special prayer on their pets. It has been passed down, from generation to generation, for thousands of years.

“All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”