Salman Haider’s disappearance won’t silence our voices

In Pakistan, a new generation of activists has emerged from the shadows of 9/11, subsequent wave of wars and atrocities, and the Lawyers’ Movement of 2007.

Progressive in beliefs, liberal in ideas, politically conscious, averse to religious fundamentalism; they are often mocked as ‘liberal fascists’, ‘mombatti mafia’, and ‘anti-state seculars’.

Outnumbered by their opponents, they have managed to keep the debates about modernity, place of religion in the public sphere, role of state in combating terrorism, and widespread misogyny in the society alive on social-media and have significantly influenced public discourse in the last few years.

La poésie est dans la rue – Poetry is in the streets – was a slogan raised by revolutionary students during the May 1968 revolt in Paris. The people of the Subcontinent have always spoken against power, corruption and injustices through poetry, and the gallant tradition of the poem has been passed down to our generation in the same undaunted spirit for which it is famous. Kafir Kafir is one such poem, and it was written by Salman Haider.

Salman Haider is missing since Friday night. He is an academic, a poet, and a human rights activist. Above all, he is a kind soul, restless and perturbed by the state of our society.

He could be heard and read at any occasion. From Shia killings to the APS massacre, from attacks on the Hazara community to the plight of missing persons in Balochistan, he was the voice of the voiceless, the armour of the defenceless. He was a rare voice of resistance marching through the barricades, tearing apart heaps of lies. He expressed the anger, concern, and all the other feelings that made us stand in solidarity with the oppressed.

There is something fundamentally wrong when open incitement to violence is permitted but sane voices are not tolerated. That we had to switch from hashtag #ArrestAbdulAziz to #RecoverSalmanHaider speaks volumes about the resolve of the state to root out terrorism.

That a proscribed group holds rallies in the heart of the capital while an enlightened activist disappears from the same city points to the shortcomings of the government. And this is exactly what Salman Haider was most critical of.

When violence is tolerated and dissent is crushed, rest assured that it’s not the pen but the gun that would write the future.

That a man speaking up for missing persons would himself go missing one day is not that surprising after all.

Truth comes with a heavy price. There might not be many who chose to ignore the dangers, but the ones who do are not only related to each other in heart and mind, but are also joined by their comrades in prisons and torture cells.

When Khurram Zaki shouldered Sabeen Mehmud‘s coffin, he was probably aware that his time wasn’t far away either.

When Salman Haider spoke up for the missing persons, he may have known that that could be viewed as crossing some lines.

Thus he wrote yet another poem that I will not dare translate:

Abhi mere dostoN ke dost laa-pata ho rahay heiN
Phir merey dostoN ki baari hai
Aur uske baad maiN
Woh File banuN ga
Jisey mera baap adalat le ker jaye ga…

By the time you read these lines, the reasons behind his mysterious disappearance might still be unclear, similar to the countless souls gone missing in recent years. There might still be deliberate confusion as to the real motives of the people who took him away. And if poetry is going to be a crime here, the poem shall resist and fight until the safe return of Salman Haider and others like him.

Transgender activist Kami Sid is set to star in short film ‘Rani’

Kami Sid made headlines when she debuted as a model in November last year. The transgender activist used her fashion shoot with photographer Haseeb M Siddiqui to highlight the need for the mainstreaming of Pakistan’s transgender community.

Now, Kami is set to appear in a short film to send another message about transgender rights. The film, titled Rani, has been directed by US-based director Hammad Rizvi and produced by Karachi-based production house GrayScale and hopes through this effort.

Kami will play a toy vendor named Rani in the short film
Kami will play a toy vendor named Rani in the short film

Says Kami about her film, “The short film is called Rani and I play the titular character, who is a transgender. The film was shot around the beginning of October and is in post production now. The story is absolutely brilliant.”

“In the film, we’ve shown that transgenders can do a lot more than just sex work and dancing at weddings.”

The film will raise awareness about the transgender community
The film will raise awareness about the transgender community

Images decided to get in touch with Assistant Producer Omema Nasir at production house GrayScale to find out more about Rani.

Images: What can Grayscale reveal about the film Rani at this point? What is the film about?

Omema: Rani tells the story of a transgender who makes a living selling toys on the streets of Karachi, Pakistan. One day she finds an abandoned baby, lying in a cradle outside an orphanage. Overcome by emotion, she picks the baby and takes it home. Later, after a series of distressing events, she realises the discrimination the child would face as a result of her decision.

The film was shot in October last year
The film was shot in October last year

Images: How did the project originate? Did a writer/director come to Grayscale with the story, or was the story idea also generated in-house?

Omema: The story was written and developed by Hammad Rizvi, an award winning filmmaker based in the US, who came to us with an early version of his script. Given the nature of projects we had been previously involved in, we partnered with Hammad immediately and took on the role of producing the film for him.

Kami was considered the perfect choice for the role
Kami was considered the perfect choice for the role

Images: Could you tell us a little about the casting process? Did you go through several actors or did you always have Kami in mind for the lead role? Are there any other known personalities in the film?

Omema: We were already working with Kami, on a short documentary film on transgenders, when we were approached by Hammad. We immediately knew Kami was the right choice for the role, and after sending Hammad a video audition, locked her for the role early on. This was one of the best decisions we made, as Kami was instrumental in helping us develop our story, our dialogues, and in the remainder of our casting process. We used genuine transgenders in the film, and used mainly non professional actors, along with some new talent we sourced through a casting agency.

Images: When and where is the film likely to be premiered?

Omema: The film is currently undergoing post production in the US. We are hoping for a premiere sometime towards the middle of this year, and plan to take it to a number of festivals worldwide. Currently we are still undecided where to premiere the film, but have already gained considerable interest in our story.

PM to announce export package worth Rs70bn today

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will announce on Tuesday the much-awaited export package worth Rs70 billion aimed at arresting the trend of falling exports in the remaining months of the current fiscal year.

The package is worked out in a way to minimise the impact of the 8 per cent rebate that the Indian government gives to its exporters to compensate for falling prices of commodities in the international market.

In the first half of 2016-17, export proceeds fell to $9.91bn from $10.31bn a year ago, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) data shows. Pakistan’s exports fell to $19.5bn in 2015-16 from $25bn in 2013-14.

The proposed Prime Minister’s Trade Enhancement Initiative covers raw materials used in five value-added sectors, namely textiles, leather, sports, carpets and surgical goods.

Merchandise exports declined over 3pc in December

The government will give a rebate of 3pc to 6pc on export proceeds of the value chain. The lowest rate will be on the export of primary or low value-added products while the highest rate will apply to value-added products.

In the textile and clothing sectors, the rebate will be 3pc and 4pc on the export of yarn and fabric, respectively.

In the value-added sector, the government will give a 6pc rebate on the exports of readymade garments and 5pc on home textiles. “This package has no condition such as a percentage increase in exports over the last year,” a source told Dawn.

This will be direct cash support to exporters to help them reduce their cost of production, according to the source.

The government is already extending support to textile exporters based on their incremental increase in exports. The government gives a 4pc rebate on a 10pc incremental increase in ready-made garments exports over the preceding year, 2pc on home-textile and 1pc on fabric. There is no support on the export of raw material or yarn.

The government has already paid out Rs2.5bn to these two sectors in the last fiscal year. The aim of this policy was to support value-addition in the export sector.

Pakistan’s exports of merchandise posted negative growth of over 3pc in December on a year-on-year basis.

Exporters of raw materials and value-added products have demanded 8pc cash support on export proceeds. But the source said the finance ministry rejected this demand, saying the tax collection by the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) missed the target by over Rs127bn in July-Dec.

According to the source, the government was left with no option but to give the relief package to exporters who are also supporters of the ruling PML-N.

“This is an election year and there is no IMF programme,” an official in the finance ministry said.

Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Zubair Tufail said the high cost of energy is one of the reasons for the falling export proceeds. “The energy cost, especially in Karachi, is very high compared to India,” he said.

The drop in exports and remittances has contributed to a rising current account deficit in the first five months of 2016-17. In July-Dec, the import bill rose 10.11pc year-on-year to $24.4bn. In December alone, it increased 17.58pc to $4.49bn. Machinery imports are on the rise because of an increase in infrastructure investment, especially the construction of roads.

The trade deficit in merchandise rose nearly 22pc year-on-year to $14.49bn in the first six months of the current fiscal year because of falling exports and rising imports.

The deficit stood at $2.76bn in December, an increase of 35.68pc compared to $2.03bn a year ago.

ODI vs Australia: Junaid Khan says he is up for the challenge

Pakistan fast bowler Junaid Khan expressed jubilation on his selection in the Pakistan’s One Day International (ODI) team for the Australia series, calling it a chance for him to prove himself in the field.

“This is a great moment for me… Although we are sad for the demise of [Mohammad] Irfan’s mother, it is a chance for me to prove myself and my fitness in Australia,” Khan told DawnNews.

“I am experiencing the same feelings right now as I did when I was selected for the first time.”

Khan was called for the ODI series against Australia as a replacement for Mohammad Irfan, who is returning home following the death of his mother, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials said on Monday.

The fast bowler has not only played domestic cricket but has also played in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), where he emerged as one of the top three best-performing bowlers. On Sunday, he took four wickets in a domestic one-day match, leading Peshawar to victory against FATA.

“Getting back in the national team after almost one and a half years is the biggest achievement that I’ve been waiting for since a long time,” Khan added.

The fast bowler said that he has been in form for a while, attributing his selection to his consistent performance in domestic cricket as well as the BPL where he scored the second biggest number of wickets in the tournament.

About the ODI series in Australia, Khan said he is up for the challenge as pitches there are a “bit different”.

“Pitches in Australia are a bit different but I am confident to give a match-winning performance there,” the fast bowler added.

He also said that teamwork will lead Pakistan to victory in Australia.

“I cannot go there and take wickets alone. It’s a team effort, and I am sure my captain and fellow bowlers will give me all the support I’ll need,” he said.

“I will do my best. The rest is up to fate.”

Panamagate hearing resumes: ‘PTI should approach accountability court,’ says judge

Resuming hearing of the Panamagate case on Tuesday, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa told the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to knock on the doors of accountability courts if it wishes to receive a judgement on the basis of National Accountability Bureau investigations.

Justice Khosa, heading a larger bench of the apex court, remarked that the Supreme Court is a constitutional court, not a trial court.

The five-judge bench is hearing petitions seeking the disqualification of the prime minister over investments made by his family members in offshore companies.

On Monday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the opposition PTI continued to level allegations against each other over the Panamagate scandal.

Leaders of the two parties held press conferences outside the SC soon after the hearing of the Panama Papers case and claimed that the court’s decision would come in their favour.

Yesterday Justice Khosa identified “honesty” as the real issue in the Panama Papers case, more so than the Sharifs’ purchase of four London flats or the time of their purchase.

“The real issue is that all statements made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — in his address to the nation as well as the parliament — contradict each other,” regretted Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, wondering whether the person making the statements was not being honest to the people, the National Assembly and even the apex court.

At the same time Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, pointing towards PTI’s Advocate Naeem Bokhari, emphasised the need for caution in deciding a disqualification case under Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution on the basis of a statement made by the holder of a public office, which later turned out to be false. “If we start disqualifying people under this pretext, no one will be spared, not even your clients,” the judge observed.