Sunday, January 13, 2008

The idea behind CHUP!

Pakistan is no longer the country of our parents' youth. As a child, my father would fondly reminisce about Karachi in the '60s and early '70s - the boys and girls who would line up outside the cinema and feverishly exchange phone numbers, the scavenger hunts on the beach followed by the bonfire parties, the scaling of the gated house walls to engage in typical teenage acts of mischief and rebellion. While this Karachi might still be likened to the present - there was one difference in his storytelling: diversity. My father would often speak of his Jewish classmates at Karachi Grammar School. He would tell me about the temples, mosques, and churches that formed a mosaic of cultural and religious tolerance and acceptance.

Today, these stories seem like a decaying sepia-colored photograph. The tiny pockets of utopian memories of my father's past are drastically different from the scenes I see now - the flashes of my Pakistan. Today, violence and mobs are unfortunately the norm. Cities that once were relatively safe are now the targets of daily bombings, riots, and instability. Today, U.S. presidential candidates reference my Pakistan as "the most dangerous place on earth." Today, assassinations of former Pakistani leaders are a tragedy not just because of the person or persons involved but because of the moderate voice that is extinguished in the process.

I say my Pakistan because despite it all, I could never abandon hope for this country. Call me idealistic, but for every violent incident that occurs, I grow a deeper sense of ownership and belonging. And that is where the idea of CHUP! comes from. For South Asians, the word 'Chup!' is self-explanatory - it means 'Quiet!' The extremist voice of intolerance has engulfed the media's portrayal of Pakistan and has hijacked the very meaning and premise of this country. It has kidnapped the happy memories of our parents' generation and held it hostage. As a Pakistani, I know this voice does not speak for me, nor does it speak for my family, friends, or many Pakistanis I have known. I am what has been aptly labeled a Pakistani "moderate" - but that voice has yet to be unified or truly defined. For this reason, I say Chup! to those who wish to define Pakistan on their hard-line terms and instead encourage the young and moderates to finally speak up - Changing Up Pakistan (hence also, CHUP).

I am establishing this as a forum to discuss socially and politically conscious issues and ideas among young, moderate Pakistanis. Chup! will be a platform to break the silence of the silent majority.


Eman said...

I like the fact that the article points out how Pakistan has become more intolerant over recent years. What many people do not realize, including many young Pakistanis today, is that although Pakistan was founded as a homeland for Muslims, it was also supposed to be a nation built on peace, tolerance and diversity. Years of war and poverty, as well as a series of political leaders who are more eager to line their pockets and maintain their positions than improve the country's economy or promote social welfare have made Pakistan a prime target for extremists.

Omar said...

Kuls, I'm very proud of you. I'm at work right now so can't write much but just wanted to say that we definately need more Pakistanis like you. Even though you're oceans apart from the homeland.. struggling in the corporate world, you're still putting in so much time and effort to be proactive and making a difference! Keep it up and I'm most excited about this website. Shahbash!

Colin said...

The father of a friend of mine, peace be upon him, also described Pakistan as a chill place back in the day. I would like to know how it became so jacked up, and what happened to this once peaceful Pakistan. Salaam.

Naush said...

Great initiative! Love the name and premise.

Despite not having lived many of my years in Pakistan - it IS my identity - something i am hugely proud of.

We (the young, progressive, educated, tolerant and aware) need to let our voices be heard and drown out those of the ignorant, misguided and plain evil.

They do not represent us, our views, country, religion or interests.. so Chup!

jahanzeb said...

Congratulations on getting the site up and running!

Shafa said...

Good Job Kalsoom! Will definitely be reading this on a regular basis.

Ali said...

great blog Kalsoom, I think its a great start and I'd love to see more of your opinion in your articles!

Mariam said...

I randomly stumbled on this blog and wanted to say that this is a good project and your intentions are definitely admirable. I apologize for being critical, but I feel that despite identifying a problem you fail to recognize its root causes. Pakistan changed for a number of reasons, not all of which can be solely identified as being caused by the mullahs. The mullahs were allowed to gain in power and influence during Zia Ul Haq's regime, which also saw the introduction of Islamic Law in Pakistan in 1978. Much of the religious intolerance and bigotry that exists in Pakistan began during that time.

Furthermore, obviously change cannot take place without people investing in the country. And with so many of Pakistan's youth, such as yourself, leaving the country to work in the West, what hope does the Pakistani economy have? If you really want to see change in your Pakistan, surely it would be more useful to move back, work at the grass roots level, and truly reclaim the country as your own. How can it be yours if you are thousands of miles away sitting comfortably in the West?

It is voices like yours we need to hear more of. Critical voices are increasing, but slowly. After tasting life in the West, people are--unsurprisingly--reluctant to return to a country of load shedding, lower salaries, and fewer options. But, while it's all well and good to sit around and discuss changes for the country, if you really want to introduce change surely you can be more helpful by making an active contribution.

Sophie said...

Kalsoom -- Good Job! I look forward to reading more soon! :) Definitely keep it up.

Kalsoom said...


I would actually like to thank you for your criticism - I by no means meant that Pakistan's only problem is extremism - of course there are causes rooted in very basic issues that have allowed ideologies like extremism and even separatism to flourish, but I didn't want to delve into that in my first post. Moreover, I understand that religious intolerance didn't begin until the late 1970s, hence why I formed an analogy between Pakistan in the '60s and mid-1970s to now. While I know that extremism isn't the only issue in Pakistan, it is by far the most pertinent one displayed in the media - my purpose is to not only change the discourse on Pakistan but to change perceptions in the media that 1. extremism is not the only voice that you can see in the very polarized world of the press and 2. extremism is not the only problem period.

Secondly, I completely understand your "brain drain" argument, and while I understand your skepticism of a girl that chose to live in the U.S. and live away from all that, know that my professional intentions outside of this project is and always has been to work for the country. I think very little of my own story is evident in the first post, so I invite you to be patient and see which way this forum/blog flows before making judgment. Yesterday was only my first day after all :).

In any case, I genuinely appreciate your opinion and any honest criticisms - I want this blog/forum to represent a collaboration of ideas and suggestions, and if you have any more questions for me, feel free to comment again. Thanks!

Fariha said...

Hi Kalsoom... I like you're idea and this could deff go places. It's our generation that needs to stand up and as you said change up pakistan. Great job will deff keep up to date with this. (I'm omar's cousin fariha btw)

sajidmajeed said...

Well, bravo for starting such a strong message blog. We all need an eye opener like you from time to time over here in pakistan and surely the discussions here will definitely be insightful. however, what we need in Pakistan are more proactive people like you. educated and balanced, true effect and movement is realized when group of like minded people gather and start making changes.The blog is influential but more influential would be your powerful analysis and voice to be heard in the US through the newspaper as well as contributions to the newspapers here.

Zara said...

Kalsoom! not looking elementary!
amazing start, amazing idea.
Looking forward to it :)

MUNNAL said...

Hi Kalsoom,
I think the reaction of the youth, to the ongoing political chaos in OUR country, is simply commendable!!!

By reaction I mean ,MORE of us relying on voicing out through print /electronic media rather than getting into ,"he said she said" crap or GOD forbid indulging into acts of violence!Unfortunately "the more" is not heard of as much as the trouble makers are!!

For instance this blog "CHUP" is a proactive tool through which we all can be heard in a positive reinforcing manner.In nation development there has always been different strata of people,some who make a difference by their physical presence at the main venue others who act as goodwill embassadars.In present times ,for OUR NATION,we need a balance between both categories.

I myself have been residing in the United States for the past many years but I don't think that by any standards my contributions in the nation building is any less than a person being physically present in Pakistan.Again we all need to remember that there are different areas involved in nation building!

Kalsoom,"CHUP" is a wonderful idea ,keep up the blog and I would definitely want to contribute as well.I do have some journalist friends here and i will surely pass on the "CHUP" info to them.

I want to but can't write more right now since have to run for the grocery while the cleaning lady is here and before my two monsters come back home:)
(I am Omar's cousin,Mona)

p.s:There was an article on-line where the authur had compared the assisination of Benazir to Rajiv Gandhi and how the Hindu extremists played a role in Gandhi assas. and the muslim extremists played their part in Bhutto assas.In response, 55 people within hours voiced out against using the word Hindu in the gandhi case and unfortunately I was amongst the few who had to say anything in defense of our religion!It shows more Pakistani intellectuals need to get into journalism in one way or the other!

Kalsoom said...

Thanks for all of your responses and encouragement! I am attempting to update the blog with pertinent news briefs every morning my time (EST), so if you check in by noon my time every day there should be a new post. Please keep reading and keep commenting, my inspiration and motivation honestly comes from you all! One of the first contribution articles should also be going up in the next few days!