For a Lesson on Coexistence, Pakistanis Could Look Up to Gilgit Baltistan

Pakistan is often associated with religious intolerance and extremism. But things are not as bad just north of mainland Pakistan in the Gilgit Baltistan territory. Gilgit Baltistan is one of the most bestowed and beautiful places on our planet. And its people: equally marvelous. Here is a story from Gilgit that should inspire the rest of Pakistan.

Attabad Lake in Gilgit Baltistan.

In Sunni majority Pakistan, the picturesque territory of Gilgit Baltistan is the only Shia majority region. As such, the sacred month of Muharram has a special place in the region’s annual calendar. Just days ago, during the commemoration of Ashura(reverence of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad), social media lit up with a feat of intra-faith collaboration and outreach that is unprecedented in present-day Pakistan.

Love for All Hatred for none medical camp by Jammat ahmadiyaa for azadaran in Gilgit @R00mi1 @theRealYLH@Ayeshaspeaksnow @KashifMD

The Shia student body of Gilgit – Imamia Student Organization – joined hands with the local Ahmadiyya Muslim Community to organize a medical camp for participants of the Ashura processions in the area. The banner at the gate of the medical camp proudly displayed the official motto of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community: “Love For All; Hatred For None” in the Urdu language.

Though not uncommon prior to the Constitutional amendment and anti-Ahmadi lawspassed against the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan, such examples of faith outreach are unprecedented in this era. Working with Ahmadi Muslims in a faith-based context is huge taboo in Pakistan. Even government bodies refuse to engage the Ahmadis in interfaith events, claiming Ahmadis are infidels and not a “legitimate religious group.”  Despite all attempts by the Ahmadiyya leadership to build bridges and work on common grounds, no religious group in the country is willing to publicly partner with the community on its numerous humanitarian projects. In such a climate of ostracization, the Imamia Student Organization in Gilgit Baltistan deserves applause for their exemplary outreach and respect for pluralism. As things stand, I doubt a similar Shia organization (not to speak of a Sunni group) in mainland Pakistan could show the same level of tolerance and respect for coexistence.

Intolerance and sectarianism have sadly taken deep roots across Pakistan. And the same mindset behind this radicalization is also responsible for trying to destroy the peace in Gilgit Baltistan. But fortunately, the people of the region continue to resist such bigoted influence and take pride in their pluralistic ideals.

This was very evident as doctors and volunteers from both the Shia and Ahmadiyya sects helped provide free care at the medical camp set up last week. When it was time for prayer, the Shia Muslim student volunteers did not hesitate to say their prayers at the local Ahmadiyya Mosque (picture shows Shia students performing ablution at the Ahmadiyya Mosque).

امامیہ اسکواڈ گلگت بلتستان کے ممبران احمدیہ مسجد میں نماز پڑھنے کے لئے تیاری کرتے ہوئے۔۔
اس ملک کو ایسی ہی مذہبی ہم آہنگی کی ضرورت ہے.

Many Pakistani social media activists took note and lauded the Imamia Student Organization. Riaz Akbar, a human rights activist, wrote on his Facebook page:

“While Ahmadis face the harshest persecution and isolation across Pakistan, they are a widely respected community in Gilgit. This #Ashura, the awesome #Ahmadi community and Shia organisations collaborated during the Ashura procession. Looks like the rest of the country has a thing or two to learn from us. Feeling proud of Gilgitis. Stay awesome.”

Another activist from Gilgit, Mr. Zaeem Zia shared pictures of the medical camp and commented:

“Beauty of Gilgit-Baltistan, Ahmadiyya community and Imamia Students Organisation arrange a medical camp.” #LoveForAllHateForNone #Pluralism #Peace #PeacefulCoexistence #Ashura

Journalist and civil rights activist, Bilal Farooqi, celebrated the intrafaith gesture and hoped for the same level of basic tolerance and coexistence in mainland Pakistan.

This is how it should be! Medical camp set up with Ahmadiyya community’s help in Gilgit for Ashura processions in the area. via @KashifMD

To find out if this pluralistic spirit was the rule in the region or merely an isolated incident, I spoke to a few members of the Shia and Ahmadiyya communities in Gilgit. I was thrilled to see how members from either sect were praising the other for their commitment to preserving pluralism in the region. Shia Muslim students praised the Ahmadiyya community for their peaceful and humanitarian outlook, while Ahmadi Muslim students lauded their Shia neighbors for having such open hearts. One Ahmadi leader told me:

“I cannot imagine being invited to an event at a Shia or Sunni Mosque in mainland Pakistan. Here, our local Shia Mosque invited me to speak on Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) righteous character at an intrafaith event recently.”

And when I asked him about the rampant sectarianism and Takfir (anathematization) across the country, he replied:

“Oh no, not here. We identify as Muslims in Gilgit Baltistan. People here respect religious freedom and we do not have to worry about being thrown into jails for professing our faith.”

A Shia Gilgiti proudly reiterated:

“Ahmadis are our brothers. We will not let anyone hate them. Gilgit stands for peace and love.”

The Pakistani government has often admitted that Takfir is at the root of sectarianism, and sectarianism the precursor for terrorism. But it has taken no steps to curb the sectarian and Takfiri language in the State’s most sacred documents. If we dream of religious harmony and peaceful coexistence in Pakistan, we must look North to our Gilgiti neighbors and try to model their attitudes throughout the country.

Like Gilgit, the rest of Pakistan must also understand the basic principle of “agreeing to disagree” on theology, while embracing friendly community ties. And like them, we must make no exceptions to calls for interfaith and intrafaith coexistence. We must embrace ALL of our neighbors with open hearts. Instead of emulating the Trumps of the world, we should be its Trudeaus – and its Gilgitis.

Meat for all households in Hunza: Eid tradition ensure equality in sacrifice

The much renowned Hunza valley, enveloped in the grand Himalayas and the Karakoram mountain range, carried out its unique tradition of communal qurbani on the occasion of Eidul Azha.

Image result for qurbani in Hunza

As part of an ancient tradition, all sacrificial animals are slaughtered at a community centre and the meat is then divided among the local population where all families get an equal share of meat, irrespective of whether they purchased a sacrificial animal or not.

This year around 130 sacrificial animals were slaughtered in the garden of the community centre where volunteers supervised the process. As part of the tradition, the owners of the animals remain anonymous.

“It’s a centuries old tradition,” said Sher Afzal, a resident of Ali Abad area of Hunza.

Afzal leads a group of volunteers which manages the process qurbani and the distribution of meat among local residents.

“We are happy and honoured to be following the practice of our forefathers,” he said.

Explaining the process of qurbani, Afzal said: “Local people have their own animals which they offer for qurbani…the names of people who offer their animals for sacrifice is kept secret.”

Afzal said “this year we had around 5,200 kilogrammes of meat which was then divided among 1,300 households”. Hence every household got 4 kilogrammes of meat.

A majority of the local population cannot afford animals for qurbani yet they are ensured an equal share of meat, he maintained.

The volunteers are tasked to ensure equal delivery of meat to each and every household.

“We divide volunteers into different groups and assign them areas for the door-to-door distribution of sacrificial meat,” said Afzal.

Piyar Ali, a resident of Ali Abad, said “We celebrate Eidul Azha keeping the concept of sacrifice in mind, and equally distribute the meat…this is the actual concept of sacrifice taught by Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and Prophet Ismail (PBUH),” another resident said.

“I cannot afford animal for qurbani but every year on Eid I receive meat,” he added.

Volunteer Sher Afzal said people in Hunza were following the centuries old tradition of qurbani, which he claims is also gaining popularity in other areas of Gilgit Baltistan. Source

Eid ul Adha Mubarak

A very Happy Eid ul Adha Mubarak to our valued readers around the world !!!

Image result for eid ul adha 2016

Three-day Shandur Polo festival – Chitral Wines


Gilgit: Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif on Sunday attended the ongoing Shandur Polo festival and said it is the result of the sacrifices made by the nation and the armed forces that today people are able to breathe peacefully.

Addressing the festival participants, the army chief said that the Shandur festival sends a clear message to terrorists that Pakistanis will continue with their traditions without fear.

“I assure you that noose is tightening around terrorists and their facilitators,” he said, adding that the mission against terrorists will continue nationwide to sustain peace.

Gen. Raheel Sharif also said that the day is not far when Pakistan becomes a symbol of education, development, peace and prosperity.

The COAS added that the Shandur festival is a positive step towards promotion of tourism in the country, and that organisers of the event deserve praise for their initiative.

A three-day Shandur Polo festival kicked off on Friday attracting a large number of local and international visitors who arrived to watch this unusual game at the highest Polo ground of the world.

Nestled amid the Hindukush Mountains the Shandur polo ground is situated at a height of 12500 feet above sea level.

A camp village will be set up till July 31 at the venue where tourists and locals will reside and take part in activities like paragliding, traditional dance and songs.

Polo which originated in the region is considered an expensive sport as it is played on horseback with players hitting a ball with a mallet.

Polo teams from Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral will participate in the event. The final match will be played on Sunday.

The inaugural match will be played between Laspoor and Ghizar teams.

The Shandur polo festival has been organized after a three-year hiatus.

Happy Imamat Day To All Ismaili Muslims

Imamat Day is celebrated by Ismailis to mark the anniversary of the day that their present (or Hazar) Imam succeeded his predecessor to become the Imam of the Time.

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis, having succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III on July 11, 1957.His Imamat Day is therefore observed annually on July 11.

For the Ismailis, the recognition of the Imam of the Time is central to their faith and belief. Imamat Day therefore, provides occasion to reinforce this recognition and to express gratitude to the Imam, who, in keeping with the centuries-old tradition of leadership, provides guidance in matters of faith and works to improve the quality and security of their lives.It is also a day for Ismailis to reaffirm their spiritual allegiance to the Imam and renew their commitment to the ethics of their Ismaili faith.

Today is the 59th Anniversary of the Imamat of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV. Since he has become Imam of the Ismaili Muslims in 1957 Prince Karim has devoted his resources in terms of time, money and interest unprecedentedly for the development of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. Through Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) he has contributed enoumously for the socio-economic development of the people on the area particularly in the areas of Health, Education, Rural Development and Cultural Heritage.

We salute his leadership and untiring efforts to develop Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral and send our best felicitation to His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and all Ismaili around the world!!!

Abdul Sattar Edhi a Legendary Hero

Abdul Sattar Edhi Passed Away In Karachi We Missed Another Legend of Pakistan

A big loss to nation happened on the 3rd day of Eid in Pakistan when I got a news that Abdul Sattar Edhi passed away in Karachi. There are many views, grief ways about the Abdul Satar Eidi just after seconds of his death but the first tribute given by Fahmida Iqbal Khan on my follower list by saying that “You are living epitome of humanity. She also explained that nation cannot pay you back for anything good happened to you for them.

Truly saddened to hear of Edhi Sahab’s passing. He was a noble soul & a great Pakistani. He gave the first big donation to SKMT 26 years ago

With legendary Edhi sahib passing away not only Pakistan but the world will mourn the loss of a great human being.May he rest in peace-Ameen

Of course, we knew this day was coming but how do you prepare for this kind of immeasurable loss? There is no one like you, sb.

Abdul Sattar Edhi Passed Away In Karachi

The ultimate salute to Edhi Sahab a legend of Pakistan. A social media activities Komal Shahid was also my follower list who expressed her tears by saying that “we lost something irreplaceable today can’t describe it in words. After the death, the 6 minutes DAWN news got in action and publish a story of his death in a well mannered way to pay a tribute the personality.

There’d be no one else like you because you have created a “Generation Edhi” in Pakistan, “we” are all ““.

Abdul Sattar Edhi Passed Away

Abdul Sattar Edhi passes away in Karachi at the age of 92 and today is the Friday night-another traditional night of blessings according to Islamic views. The kidney failure from 2013 was not the only reason for the personality to get panic but he was much aware of the humanitarian activities in Karachi.

An age passes. RIP Abdus Sattar Edhi. A modern day saint.

One can say that Abdul Sattar Edhi may get the intention towards the humanitarian services more than his health since diagnosis. The Best way to explain his service towards the humanity was his last example made by leader and legend himself. According to Fatimah Manshad FKM, a popular activist for Tahir Ul Qadri Edhi Sahib Donated his body parts.

Abdul Sattar Edhi

There may be no another way to express personality as compared to such denotation he made on the bed of death.  There are many persons praying for the Edhi Sahib after his death and saying that ” May God bless him with the neighborhood of Prophet (PBUH)”
Abdul Sattar Edhi A National Hero
This is what can a nation give to its legend because Abdul Sattar Edhi Passed Away In Karachi We Missed Another Legend of Pakistan.

Happy Eid Mubarak