Oct 7, 2006

1-Year Anniverary Reflections

October 8th 2005 Pakistan Earthquake
1st Year Anniversary Reflections

As I traveled over the borders of what used to be one nation, I reflected on the diversity of peoples and the powerful individuals I had the opportunity to work with. The following two quotes came to mind:
"You must be the change you want to see in this world."
- Mohandas Gandhi (1869- 1948), India's "father of the nation".
"There are two powers in the world: one is the sword and the other is the pen. There is a great competition and rivalry between the two. There is a third power stronger than both, that of the women."
- Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948), Founder of Pakistan, from Speech at Islamia College for Women, March 25th 1940.

My telling of this international news focuses on the hope and humanity of the people living in this area and the role that "community" had played in the recovery and healing. "The community" played this role in the disaster because it played a strong role in routine daily life and in the hearts and minds of individuals in the life that they always knew.

Given that this natural disaster did not last more than a few days on mainstream news in the West, donors were apparently fatigued from the Tsunami and Katrina (not to mention funding for the war), this was happening in a part of the world that was highly thought of as the necessary site for the "war on terror", and because the mainstream media coverage of the earthquake did not seem to provide a holistic picture, appropriate reflections of the communities, or any answers to handling "disaster", I felt it was necessary to re-tell the story of the earthquake from my experience and this website is a part of that re-telling. One year later, in memory of the lives lost and in honour of the communities I worked in, I am still telling the same story.

The following are some quick reported-measurements of the Pakistan earthquake. The earthquake hit on Oct 8th 2005 with magnitude of 7.6 at the epicentre of Muzaffarabad (the capital city of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan). It was estimated that 150,000 people died, 19,000 being children in schools and, over 3 million survivors were instantly left homeless. Many of the survivors became permanently disabled or badly injured and a large majority of all families lost their ability to support themselves through their own farm land and/ or lost their businesses. It was estimated that 250,000 farm animals died in their collapsed stone barns and more than 500,000 large animals immediately required medical care, food and shelter from harsh winter. There were about 140 aftershocks over a period of two months that impacted cities as far south as Lahore.

Both North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Azad Kashmir are in a mountainous region in which transport is difficult and dangerous even under normal circumstances, where it gets extremely cold in winters with snowfall, and where there is a diversity of mountain and valley communities, dialects, peoples and traditions. Azad Kashmir is a disputed territory with India and is politically segregated from the rest of Pakistan with its own Prime Minister and government. This is all in a country ranked 134 on the UN's Human Development Index Chart, with a population of 156 million people and with an estimated 74% of its population living on less than $2 USD per day.

Due to the earthquake, 3 million displaced people went into tents and some left for other cities across Pakistan to become beggers or in hopes to find extremely poor-paying informal street or house keeping work. Note also that due to the "war on terror" in neighboring Afghanistan (on west border of two Pakistani provinces NWFP and Balochistan), Pakistan has been taking in hundreds of thousands of refugees who are now living in camps across three provinces (NWFP, Balochistan and Punjab). These refugees have also been searching for poorly-paid informal work or begging and are in need of support from various NGOs.

Here, in the earthquake hit areas, there was no prior formal infrastructure for such disasters, such as 9-1-1 phone call, ambulances, firefighters, equipment to remove rubble, or any prior safety planning. However, somehow, the survivors and local people knew what to do and their communal safety-net was fully functioning. Men and women were helping each other in their areas, there were assembly lines of men removing rubble and large debree with their bare hands, children were being carried and helped by any adult that was around, people were helping each other find their family members, injured women were being removed from under collapsed homes by several community members at a time, people were holding each other, people were praying together and, during meal times families were sharing whatever they had and eating together as survivor communities.

In addition to the response by the local people, within 48hrs several Pakistani NGOs from around the country were present setting up tents for survivors, providing free medical care, and arranging for further support. The national government, government of Azad Kashmir and national NGOs quickly arranged and coordinated international support. One urgent necessity donated by foreign countries within a few days was of helicopters to fly many patients and people out of communities that were now unstable, barricaded by landslides and massive rubble, destroyed roads, and at risk of further damage by aftershocks. Certainly, there were also many issues of coordinating relief efforts (such as transporting extra blankets from one area to areas of shortage by helicopter and flying during daylight hours only), communication challenges among relief organizations, women and children were now more vulnerable to physical harm, and later debates on questions of if, and how, the Government of Pakistan could have responded quicker or more effectively.

Support from the Pakistani diaspora around the globe poured in, almost immediately, to the President's Relief Fund, which was quickly set-up by the government and broadcasted. Nationals and overseas Pakistani communities responded quickly with urgent necessities such as food, tents, warm clothes and blankets lasting over several months. Pakistan International Airline (PIA), the only national and state-owned airline, agreed to bring donated goods into the country free of charge from around the world. Pakistanis living abroad were uniting and raising funds and goods through their networks, in their mosques and community centres, donating directly online to the President's Relief Fund and to national charities (such as Ansar Burney Welfare Trust or the Edhi Foundation) and, giving in the form of zakat, (meaning "charity/donations" being that it was the month of Ramadan & zakat is one of the 5 pillars of Islam). As a Pakistani living in the west, and as many overseas Pakistanis have expressed, I experienced a rare instance of what felt like complete global unity, wherein every person who even remotely identified as Pakistani felt to do something for the people directly impacted by this natural disaster. Of course it cannot go without mention the immediate support from various individuals and communities and certainly international organizations dedicated to global disaster relief and refugee support, such as the United Nation's High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) (tents seen in picture).

All of the above was despite the little attention on the earthquake in western mainstream media compared to the attention on the Tsunami. It is interesting to contrast this local and "third world" national response to the earthquake to that of another natural disaster, Hurricane Katrina, which took place in a first world country (in fact the world superpower) just a few months prior. Why was there such a stark contrast in the response to these two natural disasters? What role (if any) did "community" play in both Hurricane Katrina and the Pakistan Earthquake? Why was there a large difference in western mainstream media coverage time and representation of the Thailand/South-East Asia Tsunami compared to that of the Pakistan/South Asia earthquake? Please feel free to continue to comment and discuss these issues on this site (see link at bottom of this update).

I want to thank you for taking the time to read about the earthquake on this site. Over time, this site has evolved from what was only to be a simple story of my direct work in the camps into a space for critical and creative thinking. This is partly due to many of you who attended my workshops and raised important questions for dialogue.


At October 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great work and reminder of all the work yet to be done. Looking fwd to more information from you.

At October 08, 2006, Anonymous Roxanne Power said...

Tahmena, I feel most privileged in reading your posting. I feel privileged and grateful that you spent time recording your thoughts and taking photos to share with us in such a public way. I am privileged and fortunate to be in a safe place and with access to a Thanksgiving feast if I so choose.
After your experience I would imagine the world never seems the same again; amazing though this is a good thing. The people and the volunteer work you did kept your hope alive. They and you are to be admired.
-Roxanne Power

At October 09, 2006, Anonymous Pam Patterson said...

Tahmena- your site is very cool - great - way to go girl..... keep reminding me as you move ahead with thisXXXXXXX Pam

At October 13, 2006, Anonymous Sarah said...

I love this site. I want to thank you for all of your teachings through this website. I can see many links to this and the issues of global power and privilege you discuss in your workshops. I like the idea of "communal safety net" and would like to learn more on how that functions. I would like to talk more on how can we return to this indigenous model here in North America? And is this why Katrina was such a humanitarian nightmare as well as a natural disaster? Is this the nameless North American natural disaster you subtly referred to? Perhaps we can discuss this in the next workshop?

At October 14, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings from Brussels.
First of all accept my heartiest gratitude on behalf of oversease Kashmiris. That byou carried out such a nice contribution to the outer worlds and for those who don,t realize the gravity of that disaster of 8th October-2005. We are directly or indirectly effected by it emotionally,or potentially (Economicall), But volunteers like you are honorable who bring our people back to the normal life. If you need any help from us please don,t hesitate to contact us as we ahev sound contact in different EU institutions here at Brussels.
my email is visionkashmir@yahoo.com
Looking forward to hear from you soon,
With best wishes and regards,
Jamil Maqsood

At October 15, 2006, Blogger Tahmena Bokhari said...

To learn how to make donations please contact me.
Thank you.

At October 18, 2006, Blogger Tahmena Bokhari said...

I want to thank all who have visited this site and those who have written comments. Some of you have e-mailed me with such a variety of interesting discussion topics that came out of this site and I encourage you to post your ideas here.
I also wanted to let everyone know that this site opens differently in different web-browsers. The best browser to open it with is Firefox and you can download it from this site http://www.mozilla.com/firefox/
You will now find that the text is better located with the associated pics. Overall, I have found that this is a better browser.
Thanks again and looking fwd to hearing more.

At October 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really like your site. Thanks for puting the effort to set up this site, and also thanks for going all the way to Pakistan for such a noble cause and sharing your experience with us.
Please put some visible link some where on your site for those who want to contribute and donate, like Edhi Trust or Insar barni trust etc.

Thanks a lot.

At October 20, 2006, Blogger Tahmena Bokhari said...

Thank you to the anonymous person who left a link to donate to Edhi Welfare Trust. By clicking on the date or "thanks a lot", one can enter the Edhi online donation site. Edhi Welfare and Ansar Burney Welfare Trust (http://www.ansarburney.com/) are some of the organizations that did tremendous work in the quake areas. There are also other ways that one can donate such as through the President's Relief Fund (http://www.presidentofpakistan.gov.pk/). However, one can also donate directly to the smaller local NGO's as some may be able to provide receipts. Just a note that the particular camp in which I stayed was independent of Edhi or Ansar Burney. You may check out all of these sites for more information on donating. Please also feel free to contact me via e-mail for any further information.
Thank you.

At October 20, 2006, Anonymous D.S. said...

This is a great story of relief efforts and a bit different from what we are used to here in the West. Your emphasis on the spirit of the people is capturing. I also like the way you gave the children a voice. I almost felt like I met them too.

At October 24, 2006, Anonymous Gary said...

Hi there. I really enjoyed reading this account of your project. You have given us a lot to think about. The pics are awesome, especially the ones with the tiny white dots. Including so much of the geographical background and natural scenery in the shots of the people was very well done. It helped me think about the environment in which the communities there are living compared to what we are used to here in urbanized settings. How does the environment impact communities and individuals? How does this impact intervention? These are important questions to ask ourselves. Also, contextualizing the meds noncompliance issue was very informative.
Amazing work!

At October 28, 2006, Anonymous J.J. said...

Hi Tahmena. Love this story. The pics are amazing and far from amateur. The writing is well done. We need more of this kind of tone here in North America. I also had the benefit of viewing your entire powerpoint presentation. I think many of us here would not even know what to do in this kind of disaster or would be able to survive in some other parts of the world. We are so dependent on "the system". I was particularly fascinated by the stories of the children because despite such poverty they were hopeful, very bright, energetic and expressive. They had strong personalities and were very comfortable with themselves. The people in general appear to be very confident in their identities. We can learn from this strength. In our spoiled location of unearned privilege we are so disconnected from ourselves and each other. You have reminded me to look closer into myself and those around me, to examine my privilege and to consider ways in which I can act responsibly. Hope you will continue to enlighten us with this kind of information.

At October 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love this blog. Very informative and insightful. Can't imagine how it would feel to be digging through rubble to find something to sell. Can't imagine how it would feel to have nothing to your name besides some pieces of wood. Can't imagine living in a tent next to the grave of your spouse or parents. The people have a high sense of community and personal strength. This really came out in the way you told the story. I agree with j.j. who said that we can learn from this strength. I also think its commendable that a Westerner like you could give up your luxuries and live there in the camp even temporarily, where sanitation and clean water were serious issues. This should definitely go to wider audience.

At October 28, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well done story. It must have been an amazing experience for you to go back to the country in which your were raised and serve these communities with your skills. I particularly like your pics of the camp life. Because we live in culture of materialism and one of the most (unearned) privileged places in the world, I wondered how the survivors could actually survive and go on with their lives. The first picture of the tent you lived in and the sunset was breathtaking. The contrast of beauty and destruction was very engaging. Thank you for sharing this experience with us.

At October 31, 2006, Anonymous Kh-Hamid said...

Dear Tehmina,
Great Great Work.
May God bless you for your noble works.

Hamid Ali,
Muscat, Sultanate of Oman

At November 02, 2006, Anonymous Amjid Ali Khawaja said...

Dear Tahmeena,
Its nice to see your profile and your efforts in Pakistan in earthquake effected area. Thanks for your support to the People of Earthquake Victim.
Amjid Ali Khawaja

At November 02, 2006, Anonymous Jaya P. said...

Neat blog. Powerful photos. Kids are so cute. More money is still needed because people are still suffering.

At November 05, 2006, Anonymous Matt Bolton said...

Great photos!

At November 07, 2006, Anonymous Micheal Barrett said...

Hi Tahmena. Very interesting site. You have a great skill at telling such a complex story in such a simple way. Anyone can read this, understand it and somewhat relate to the people. Easy to understand but so many deep issues within this story. The pics also tell a story on there own and really touched me.

At November 07, 2006, Anonymous S. Singh said...

It amazes me that the people of these regions live among such diversity and do so quite peacefully, other than national/military violence in fight over Kashmir. So many languages spoken there that you noted and many cultures within small geographic area. As you say, we can learn from this. I know we think Toronto is the most diverse, but is it really?
S. Singh

At November 07, 2006, Anonymous A. Khan said...

Need more people doing this job. Need more donation go directly to people
People of Pakistan live in severe poverty, add earthquake crisis is like death sentence for nation. So many problems military problems corruption and poverty.
Thanks for making website.

At November 08, 2006, Anonymous Roger Manning said...

Your material deserves wide recognition.
I have never read a blog before, so yours was particularly interesting. It is put together in a professional manner with excellent pictures – the one with your tent and the moon in the background is remarkable for its imagery.
You seem to have had a spiritual experience as a result of your work with the survivors of the earthquake. In Christianity we have a saying that “God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform”. God may be opening your heart and mind to a deeper understanding of your purpose in life. Keep the doors open!
Roger Manning
Executive Director
Catholic Community Services of York Region

At November 12, 2006, Anonymous Mazen said...

Tahmena, I am sure every body who knows you,is proud of you, and we all wish doing what you have done. Tahmena ,looking forward to hearing the good news about you.
Sincerely Mazen

At November 12, 2006, Anonymous Arif said...

Dear Tahmena,
Excellent work. I know the people there are in great need. On top of the basic help you provided, it seems they really loved having you be a part of their community. Takes more than handing out used clothes to really be able to connect with the people and impact their lives, like guts and a lot of passion. I certainly could not do it or even live in the camps. I am sure you highly impacted their lives as much as you say they did that for you.
Wish you all the best and look fwd to more insightful stories.

At February 01, 2007, Anonymous Jawaid Shaikh said...

Tahmena. I read each and every comment and it is quite evident that your blog touched so many yet in different ways. I agree by keeping your account simple you made the real issue take the front seat. Good Luck to you.
Jawaid Shaikh

At February 07, 2007, Anonymous K.Khan said...

Nice site. So many issues in Kashmir area. I am Kashmiri and we need help. Thank you for your support and courage. We need people likeyou join our movement.

At March 11, 2007, Anonymous Imran Khan said...


At March 14, 2007, Anonymous Jameel Raza Akhtar said...


At March 26, 2007, Anonymous A said...

Hello everyone
Finally got a chance to view this site in detail. Tahmena, your observations noted here are amazing. I also really enjoyed the presentation you gave on this in early February at the faculty. Is it possible to get copies of the pics or to purchase them? Is it possible to get copy of your full reports/powerpoint? Perhaps you can post it here.

At April 10, 2007, Anonymous Ana G said...

Great presentation!!
Want to see more of this!

At April 10, 2007, Anonymous Linda Sundee said...

Love these photos. They should be published in all kinds of places. All of your pictures should be displayed here and this site should be widely circulated. Anyone involved in any type of reconstruction work in developing countries should see your powerpoint presentation. You are really good at helping us rethink our values and to question where we get certain ideas. Despite example after example, we still fail to do justice in countries where we are supposed to be there to help communities. Even though we may think we have examined power and privilege issues enough as community workers, we really have not because the problems continue to exist and we perpetuate them.

At April 10, 2007, Anonymous S Rafeeq said...

Great example for any projects done in developing nations. specially for young people of privilege that go to these places with all kinds of ideas and all kinds of unexamined reasons. Usually those doing this work have never actually lived in a developing country unless they are paid or only for a few months. They cant really relate to the people they should be helping. Either there are people who have idealistic impressions of foreign cultures or they are so afraid of any culture but their own. I like the ideas we discussed on who gets to help who. How about people who are originally from these countries helping their own communities? And how about those people who go overseas instead work at changing people in their own Western communities? Can we design such a program?

At May 24, 2007, Anonymous Jameel said...

so the searching was worth it to find your blog :) Its been a enlightening experience to read your insight.

I look forward to reading about your trip to Cambodia....

At June 09, 2007, Anonymous secret admirer said...

i love you.

At June 23, 2007, Anonymous Dave said...

Wow...you lived with no bath, no running water, no heat and absolutely no luxuries or even necessities in a tent in minus 14 degrees??!! I know that mountain area is very hard on the body as it is and then to be helping others. I know you like climbing and testing your limits, so must have been some experience. Cool pic of you on the heli...show us more of you. U still look good for the conditions you lived...hey even better than some in the West. LOL.
I also saw the story on GEO.
Thanks for sharing this with the world.

At August 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pakistan 60 years of Independence ( Jamil Maqsood Brussels)

The feeling of jubilation could, however, have been infinitely stronger if it were possible to dismiss the thought of Pakistan’s being an under-developed collectivity even at the age of 60. Pakistan is a rapidly developing country and should soon join the developed elite.
This claim is based on the rate of GDP growth, the burgeoning numbers of cell phones and automobiles in the country, the mushrooming of high-rise plazas and the presence of rich and powerful rulers. Perhaps Islamabad’s role in fighting terrorists by subduing large parts of the country’s population will also be cited as evidence of success in achieving development goals.

What we are discussing here is not Pakistan’s past, the subject is future. The issue is major obstacles to genuine development. Pakistan will remain an underdeveloped nation with an immature mindset in command so long as its peasants remain bonded to absentee landlords (or corporate barons), its women remain in the clutches of male feudal tormentors, and its working people are left to rot as galley-slaves of merciless exploiters
The plight of Pakistan’s working people is particularly pathetic because theoretically they are supposed to be freer agents than peasants and women. Since 1959, when the Ayub regime began the series of anti-labour policies, and right upto the Industrial Relations Ordinance of 2002, labour has been progressively stripped of the rights it had won after nearly two centuries of struggle.

Pakistan was an agricultural country to begin with. The share of agriculture to GDP may have fallen sharply but a majority of the population still depends on it. The state has largely been concerned with raising agricultural output and to some extent with marketing. The rights of the tillers were half-heartedly addressed vide three inadequate and insincerely implemented land reform packages. Despite the fact that the ILO Convention on farm workers’ right to form trade unions was ratified before independence, the state has not encouraged peasant mobilization.

Their right to inheritance is disputed, to say nothing of their broader right to economic independence. Across a large part of the country they are not allowed freedom of vote and many of those elected to local councils are not permitted to perform their functions. It can safely be asserted that a vast majority of women continue to be excluded from decision-making.

we are concerned here with three main indicators of under-development. These are: a lack of maturity in the collective’s thinking, a high level of poverty in the country, and the people’s exclusion from decision-making. We began with rule by representatives elected on a narrow franchise and in a pre-Pakistan context. They were inherently incapable of respecting the aspirations of the people, of acting as a responsible outfit. Adult franchise came in 1951 and with it the tradition of avoiding elections or fudging them if they had to be held.
Either way the people’s sovereign rights came under the axe. A decade after the people had
created Pakistan by their democratic choice; they were told they were incapable of democratic management of their affairs besides computation of material progress, development must be measured by a country’s ability to take decisions, especially on critical issues, that prove to be wise, timely, and in public interest; by guarantees of a decent and fulsome standard of living for all citizens, especially the poorest and the weakest among them; and by the opportunities the people have of contributing to decisions affecting their lives, both individually and collectively.

Pakistan did not have an indigenous tradition of parliamentary democracy that was sought to be implanted here is more true about the traditional ruling elite, both of its civilian and military wings included, than about the massesIt is this ruling elite that has consistently been found wanting in ability to base decisions on public consensus, partly because of its incapacity to appreciate the dynamics of a democratic process and partly out of fear of losing not only its material possessions and privileges but also, and more importantly, its monopoly over power.

In almost all crises the state’s destiny was in the hands of small groups whose claims to represent the people could convince their members only or in the hands of individuals who could not even make such claims.An enquiry into the people’s exclusion from decision-making is necessary because Pakistan’s future will not be any better than its past unless matters begin to be decided by the will of the people.

A common reason advanced by the country’s permanent establishment for curtailing and shutting off the process of reference to the people is that they lack formal education.
Nobody will deny the part education can play in helping a society manage its affairs. From measuring land and collection of taxes to building of roads and dams and generation of electricity, to running of hospitals and parliament’s secretariat you need adequately educated and trained professionals. But politics, especially democratic politics, is a matter of making choices on the basis of people’s needs so as to ensure the greatest good of the greatest number. No formal education is required for making such choices, as we shall presently see.

The elections of 1945-46 that clinched the argument in favor of Pakistan was extremely limited. All the voters had not had the benefit of formal education. Many among them – owners of property, tax-payers, ex-servicemen – were illiterate. Yet they were considered sufficiently qualified to join the most momentous consultative process in the history of British India.Instead, the people have been unable to participate in decision-making, thus condemning the state to be governed by an immature elite and condemning themselves to poverty, because the social structures established before independence were not conducive to democratic governance. And all governments have been guilty of failing to demolish the socio-economic barriers to the people’s empowerment, though a few of them did try to tinker with them. The largest groups of people barred from decision-making councils are: peasants (including their womenfolk), women (outside the agriculture sector), and working people (industrial and trade employees, workers in the informal sector, and self-employed hordes). Taken together they constitute an overwhelming majority of the people. They are not incapable of contributing positively to decision-making institutions and processes, but they have been prevented from doing so by socio-economic-cultural constraints. Where do these large chunks of population stand 60 years after independence?

The more consequential: failure to realize for nine years the most vital need for a constitution for the new state and the compulsions of a democratic, federal and equitable constitution till today; use of unfair means to escape democratic obligations and
frequent resort to force to suppress the aspirations of the federating units, especially of he majority population in East Bengal; deliberate and hypocritical exploitation of belief for narrow political interests; neglect of permanent neighbors for the sake of distant, temporary and fickle-minded patrons; reliance on profitless borrowing and disregard for national human capital; and, finally, an incredibly strong devotion to a praetorian polity. The most frightening aspect of reality today is our apparently firm resolve to prove that the mindset governing Pakistan’s actions and behavior betrays not only a state of under-development but also suicidal traits of a most dangerous variet

Pakistan tests positive on all three of the indicators of under-development.
President Musharraf is the fourth general to seize power in Pakistan's sixty-year history, but the country always returns to civilian rule in the end.Pakistan is certainly becoming unstable. The government has effectively lost control in the tribal belt along the frontier with Afghanistan, which is increasingly dominated by pro-Taliban militants. The week-long siege of radical Islamists holed up in the Red Mosque in Islamabad, the capital, in mid-July culminated in the deaths of over a hundred militants and soldiers.

"We are very scared," Senator Anwar Baig of the opposition Pakistan People's Party told the Guardian last week. "If we don't mend our ways, it could spell the end of the country. The Islamists have sleeper cells in every city. We could have a civil war." And if the "Islamists" won that civil war, then people with a worldview not dissimilar to Osama bin Laden's would control a country with 165 million people, an army of 600,000 men, and an estimated fifty nuclear weapons.

There is a good chance that this crisis could end in restoration of civilian democracy in Pakistan: that is how all three previous bouts of military rule ended., They stand a better chance of getting those things if democracy returns, even if previous intervals of democracy in Pakistan have usually ended in massive corruption and paralysis as the political class fought over the spoils. Musharraf is probably on the way out unless he declares martial law under the pretext of fighting the Islamists -- and it is not certain that the army would follow him if he did.

Jamil Maqsood Brussels

At September 01, 2007, Anonymous Natalia said...

looking great as usual. you are an amazing adventurous woman full of life and love. an example for all!

At September 29, 2007, Anonymous SM said...

If I want to go abroad to some country to work as a volunteer can I do that?, can you help me out in the process and steps that have to happen ? which NGO to contact, how to finance etc?

At October 15, 2007, Anonymous Sofia Ali said...

Thanks for providing the update. Congratulations on all your achievements in Azad Kashmir. We need more strong people like you all over the world who can really give parts of themselves to others, as you always say. How do we develop this idea of community here in the West? How about in Toronto? Maybe even just through my church? It sometimes feels impossible given the circumstances here. If I do something for the community its not going to do much for my own individual reward. I think people are pulled by this, even those of us that know the value of community from our countries of origin. So would like to discuss this further with any one that is interested.

At October 17, 2007, Anonymous Rachel said...

This is so informative and engaging. Ever since I read your information and saw your pictures I can not get the images out of my mind nor can I stop thinking about how isolated individuals are here. I wonder if something like Katrina happened in Toronto, how would we all respond as individuals? How can it be that in the world superpower individuals could not rely on the system, a country full of money and eating up majority of the worlds resources. But I guess not everyone in that country is meant to reap the benefits of that greed. Yet, a country where majority of the people live on less than $2 a day helped each other and shared their last bits of food with others. I remember you also mentioned that they would always offer you tea or food whenever you visited their individual tents in the camps.

Certainly its understandable that a country like Pakistan with so much poverty and no state social-safety net would have some crime in such a situation, but compare that to the horrible experience Katrina survivors faced and its just not acceptable. Where was all that planning? What good did it do to have all those people paid big bucks to sit around a table in suits planning for emergencies and making up policies on paper?

Perhaps the way we go about it is all wrong and we really need to become more connected to our human self. Whats wrong when I need a policy to tell me to help my neighbor in a disaster? In fact our society prevents us from helping each other as people are afraid of being sued and if you want to help people may think you are very strange and have ulterior motives. Thank you.

At October 19, 2007, Anonymous Rachel said...

This is a powerful quote, "As a Pakistani living in the west, and as many overseas Pakistanis have expressed, I experienced a rare instance of what felt like complete global unity, wherein every person who even remotely identified as Pakistani felt to do something for the people directly impacted by this natural disaster".

At October 19, 2007, Anonymous Sara said...

Yes, I agree with Rachel above that this is a powerful quote. It refers to a sense of community and belonging similar to the sense of community that carried villagers through their tragedy. I am wondering how identity plays a role in how one relates to disaster or to issues in the media. I mean if you are a white middle-class American who often vacations in Thailand or owns a vacation spot there, does that make you more sensitive to disasters in Thailand? In reflecting on our discussion a few days ago, I think this is why so many Americans or those with control over media and funding placed high emphasis on Tsunami rather than earthquake. Earthquake zone was not an area that was financially invested-in or frequented by or even one with a pleasant, warm and friendly image in the eyes of those around the world with a large enough voice. This website just reinforces for me, what I think Tahmena has said in many different ways, how personal many large political and economic decisions really are, and most of how information is brought forward to us by news, internet, and pictures in the press.

At October 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the videos. Thanks also for the update. It seems like a difficult environment to work in, both physically and mentally. I also like the pictures of the people. Nice close-ups. It also amazes me how strong the women are and that we hardly ever picture them as the ones being strong.

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The videos, your story and the pictures are really good. Never see this kind of close interaction on the news. I agree we need more coverage like this to counteract the war and terror images of this area in the news. There is no balance in the media...either you are a desperate victim or angry monster terrorist. Now with Pakistan in news everyday, people here just cant understand whats going on, dont even have the context to understand and the media is not helping this understanding.

I mean these communities are so beautiful, so strong and have their values in order. Unlike here, where Americans and Canadians don't even talk to their own families down the street for months at a time. We live in a society where we are so stressed and always competing with each other. We dont stop and consider other persons feelings or think for a second what someone else's circumstances might be before we judge them. And I agree that if we are not a "community" day to day, than chances are we will not act like a community in a disaster. As we saw in Katrina, we are a racist society and it was so blatant in how we showed our concern for the survivors of that disaster. I also cannot stand it when we are so concerned about third world countries, such as those ads from world vision, yet we dont care about homelessness here or other social causes. I agree with Tahmena that it has to start at home, with each of us, and our immediate circles. I mean we dont talk to our neighbor or the guy we see everyday on the bus or even make eye contact with the homeless guy in front of our office, yet we will log onto net to send money to Ethiopia. Something is wrong with this picture and the anti-depressant drug industry is not the answer!!!

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with last comment that media is not helping us to understand what is happening in Pakistan. We need cultural brokers, I know we talked about this in workshop, to facilitate the information. Journalists think they are giving objective facts, when really they are giving what sells, whats hot and what will create a top story...they are not trained to analyze and they are certainly not culturally competent. And just because you have an ethnic journalist does not mean that person will be able to give proper justice to story b/c they are also part of media system. My other issue is when they will show a Pakistani person bashing his or her own country or a black person supporting racial profiling here in Toronto. We certainly need more ethnic journalists, editors and storytellers. We need diversity of opinion and perspective. Very few people can provide globalized perspective as does this website here and the workshops we had. I really enjoyed this as it was something I have never before experienced.

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous S. Saleem said...

Being it remembrance day here today and watching the news on Pakistan really saddens me. I am a Pakistani and I hate the way my country and Muslims are portrayed in the media. I face islamaphobia on a daily basis, even though I am a very educated and successful woman. This is because people here are ignorant of Islam and of countries such as Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan. Yes, they are on news, but who is telling that news. Why dont they talk to real Muslims, and better yet why dont Muslims be in charge of what stories are being told. It also bothers me that people mix up India and Pakistan all the time. A few years ago, people though Pakistan was the capital of India. A lot of white Canadians are mystified with India, but scared to death of Pakistan. Now why is that, when India and Pakistan were in fact one country and have same history and very similar traditions?
Stories like this need wide circulation. I would like to think Canadians who have the power will support these kinds of stories to be better published.

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous Gary said...

I saw the videos with the subtitles you showed a year ago and thought they were great. I watched them again here without the English translations to help me. I was able to notice the innocence of the children. They were talking about such heavy duty issues, yet if you dont understand what they are saying they really do look and act like children. If you focus on their words you might think they were middle-aged. They were so concerned about becoming something, they knew how many kids studied in their school, they were aware of the bigger picture, which is so different than the way kids are socially trained here to talk,. But they were so child-like in wanting to play with toys, girls fiddling with glittery necklace, buys playing with marbles, girls and boys running around getting dirty and interrupting their parents as they talked to doctors.

I also like how you covered the Cuban support a bit as that was never seen here in the news from what I saw. Cubans are also great humanitarians as they are from a socialist system and despite what Americans have to say about Castro, he is a great leader. I know many would not agree with me, including some Cubans, but as with any non-Western country leader he is controversial and has to make tough decisions and at times everyone will hate him. Just like Musharraf is doing now. Why does the US always have to interfere? They dont want Iraq interfering with their dealings with Iran, who is a neighbor, but they feel they can interfere with every country. Why cant they focus on their own problems, which they are by far not short of.

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous Sara said...

Thanks for sharing this with everyone. I don't know how you find the time with all your other work and all the presentations and workshops you run. But I also know your commitment to your work and getting the message out there. We do need more of you and I wish you all the strength to keep doing this.

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous S.P. said...

When are you coming to New York again? We should set up a presentation where you can show your full documentary? Perhaps around Thanksgiving or Christmas?

At November 11, 2007, Anonymous Amir said...

Thanks for the update and thanks for not letting us forget. I know you really like being there and you look so at peace in your pictures there.
I like the way you tell this story in your website and I think the best way to read it is to start from the first of the three entries when you were actually on the earthquake site.
I also liked the questions you asked the people. You knew what to ask and how to ask it, even with touchy topics. You also spoke in their languages which was a mix from what I could tell of Urdu, Punjabi and pahari languages. You sounded like a pro journalist, even though I know you insist you are not a journalist.

At November 12, 2007, Anonymous k.khan said...

Nicely done story and videos. Yes, the reader should read in order of year starting with 2005 to 2007. Its good of those of us that were not there to see exactly what was happening. I like all the footage you showed. The stories of the people even brought tears to my eyes. It was also bold of you to cover the injured woman whose bandage was being replaced. I know you mentioned that you did not show the really horrible sights, bu this was hard to watch. I cant imagine being there and talking with them like you did.

At November 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tahmena,

Thanks for talking to me last night. After hearing you talk about your work and reading about it I have to commend you for all your efforts. I have great regards and admiration for what you do. I hope to talk to you and see you again soon.

Sajjad in Whitby.

At November 21, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tahmena and all other readers,
This is a beautiful site made by a beautiful person. The videos are very emotional for those of us who can understand the language. I think there were a few languages in there mixed up. Anyway, the footage of the girls and their account of what happened was really hard to watch. Especially when you asked them how they handled the cold weather living outside right after the quake.
The pictures are amazing. After reading all this and watching pics and video I feel like I was right there. I wish you success in all your projects around the world. I wish you health and happiness so you continue to bring us awareness on these issues in the way that you have done so here. This is something we would never get on any news channel here.

All the best to you,
Khurram from Toronto, ON, Canada

At November 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Tahmena,
I have now finally read your last update and re-read the entire site and comments. How you manage to do this work along with all of your commitments locally and abroad I just can not figure out. You seem to be everywhere. My husband and I saw your interview on television a few days ago and your comments on the recent Pakistan situation were very insightful. We agree that there must be more diverse and balanced opinion shown, especially when it comes to a part of the world most people here know very little about.
You have been there for so many people. But I wanted to remind you again to please take care of yourself. I know with all the loss you and your family have experienced over the last couple of years, that doing this work at the rate you have been doing it must not be easy.
You are a role model to so many without even knowing it. We wish you all the success with all of your projects as we know your success means the success of many many communities across the world.
Mr and Mrs Aziz

At November 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for providing the update of your last visit on this site. You did not give yourself enough credit with with all the projects that are being worked on in the Kashmir and NWFP area due only to your passion and advocacy.

The video clips here are fantastic and it would be wonderful to have your full documentary on the quake shown everywhere every year. You showed in these clips an experience of the earthquake that we would never get anywhere else. You do not go in as a reporter, as I know you say you are never a journalist but a social worker, so your perspective is very unique and better than any lay journalist. I was also thinking about our last conversation and we certainly do need more Pakistanis who are visible in the public who can present both a local and global picture. British or Western media people just cannot do the issues justice as they are positioned locally in the west and local Pakistanis who know only of their local areas are just not aware or equipped to speak at a global level....unless mediated and with support. Someone like you helps bridge that gap and I really appreciate your position.

Thank you.

Imran Hassan
London, England

At November 24, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is so much information here and it does take a while to digest it all. I have read your last update, but came back to site a few times to re-read your previous entry and reflect on it. I agree with your emphasis on community. I think of life in mainstream Toronto, people are very selfish and individualistic. That's just the way we are trained although we pride ourselves on being more polite than American neighbours. People here wont even talk to you if you have gone through a difficult time, its our culture to think one should be left alone during a bad time. However, really thats when one needs community the most.
I also think of my workplace, where I spend 80% of my time and people there are very competitive and superficial. I also understand what you mean about all of us being products of our environment. Something is seriously wrong with our environment if most people are superficial. Why is it that we are this way in North America and not other parts of the world? I think we should take a close look at ourselves.

Denise Stephens

At December 01, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found your blog and I am really taken by your experience of the earthquake. I like the way you describe your interactions in the first of the three entries. The videos are great. I cannot understand the languages, but I like how you ensured people's own voices were included. Infact, I think there is very little of you talking and more of the people talking. The people seem very comfortable in talking with you with their posture, gestures and expressions. I can see in the video that the children liked talking to the camera.
Thanks for sharing and I hope I can see the translated video at some point.
Lisa from Toronto

At December 10, 2007, Anonymous Aabas from Germany said...

Really well-written story. Captured thoughts of many Pakistanis around the world. Idea of community is key to our success as Muslims and overseas Pakistanis. This we all have to work at especially because there just does not seem to be room for identities beyond the dichotomy of completely western or traditional Pakistani, especially for women. By this very story, you have shown us a new identity.

At December 25, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I finally had a chance to read your site in detail. It is really clear and easy to read so you make your point very well. Your presentation on this was also very interesting and very informative. I had no idea how much colonialism impacted the culture of Pakistanis and in how the west see Muslims. I know you cannot share your powerpoint slides on here but it was very powerful and should also be seen by a wide audience.

At January 07, 2008, Anonymous Tanya from Markham, ON said...

I loved reading this story as well. Again, you tell it so well. I like your description of the women and their role before, during and after the earthquake. I am also amazed at the sense of belonging and community residents of these areas feel. I think we can learn a lot from women in the northern areas of Pakistan because I just cannot imagine having to go through what they have gone through. We are truly blessed here with all our emergency planning and education systems, but its also clear we are also missing out on so many things that can increase the "quality" of our lives and families.
Tanya from Markham, ON

At January 08, 2008, Anonymous Lora Senechal Carney said...

Thanks Tahmena for this beautiful message and for all you work in Southeast Asia and Canada. You have learned much about community and I am grateful you are passing that along. I hope you yourself will always be surrounded by a large and loving community - you deserve it.

At January 13, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am exceedingly grateful to the efforts of the local officials, government of Pakistan, and all the International Relief Group, volunteers and donars worldwide for the help in the rebuilding on such a massive scale. It is very difficult for me to imagine the terror and horror of losing an individual’s entire family and way of live in such a short period of time.

I had hoped for much greater media coverage of this disaster, but having lived in North America for such a long time, I have often felt that the American media is mostly blind to anything outside their borders. Perhaps this coverage and the Aid would have been far greater, if the region had been oil rich.

I am really pleased to read this year by year account of this tragedy. It gives a wonderful account of the situation and the status of the rebuilding effort. Thank you for your dedication and yearly effort to bring your eye witness account to the rest of us.

Mississauga, ON

At January 13, 2008, Anonymous Neelo from London, England said...

Dear Tahmena and all readers,

Again, you tell this story in such an intimate and personal way, I feel as if I was there myself. I also can feel your strong passion and dedication to your work. I wanted to point out one of my favorite quotes from your writing. I think this one really helps make it clear why your work is so crucial.

"In reflecting on the strength of the people, what stood out most for me in this experience was the very raw ways in which individual human beings were connected to their "self" and how sure of their realities they were. Many living in the West may not be able to relate to such a connection with self or with community, yet this connection to self can be seen as a main aspect of the highest quality of life. This "connection to self", as I have labeled it, can be categorized under "self-actualization", the highest of Maslow's 5-level "Hierarchy of Needs". I found this highest quality here, among the people, secluded in the mountains of the third world and, hidden behind what the West see as images of terror, tribalism, political conflict, and insurgence."

Again, I do not think any reporter, researcher, or even some of the foreign aid workers, would be able to actually see this in the people and then be able to verbalize it the way you have. Your mixture in your social location with being all your identities and your experiences, including being a social worker, I think makes your work very unique and very much fills a large void out there.

Thank you for being you.

Neelo from London, England

At January 14, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having just seen the video on the 'Medical Clinic', i am speechless at the simplicity and the innocense of these people. Their plight in this tradegy is beyond the imagination of the most of us.
I am beginning to see more and more, and understand why you do what you do.

Mississauga, ON

At February 25, 2008, Anonymous christine tyrrell said...


Finally I've gotten to read your blog. I'm sitting in a peaceful place able to take it all in. Even though the gravity of the situation is obvious, so is the grace and resilience of the people in the community. Thank you for sharing your experiences openly and eloquently. This process of ongoing reflection is so important. We all have much to learn together.


At February 26, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am in awe of your courage in all the work you have done. With your work and the stories of others you have shared, you break the stereotypes of women being weak and in need of rescue.
Thank you for sharing this information with us. I think I remember about a half second of news on television about the earthquake.
I also like how you share your own personal process as part of telling us about your journeys, unlike many journalists who pretend to be objective and untouched by the experience. And yes, I know, you assert clearly that you are not a journalist.


At June 22, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations Tahmena on a job very well done. Please do keep us posted.

I am posting a question here for thoughts from other readers. I am just wondering how people feel that the recent political issues in Pakistan impacted the reconstruction?

At June 26, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed reading this site but very sad stories. The 3 documentaries brought tears to my eyes. How did you do it without breaking down? And the kids are so strong. I watched it a few times and have read your site many times.

I like how you tell this story and that you are keeping the issue alive for us. Many just talked about helping and many of us donated money, very few still remember and even fewer actually did something about it.

You just being you is helping Pakistan's image so keep it up.

Thank you.

Farooq from Ireland

At July 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You do amazing work. Thank you for keeping the story of the earthquake alive. You did a great job oftelling it and the videos were so powerful. I can speak a bit of Hindi so I understood most of them and they made my husband and I emotional. I can see why you loved those kids so much and I see now how you can say you want to live there.

Vancouver, B.C.

At August 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is amazing. I also read your interview in Poligazette and now I finally read this entire website. The pictures are amazing and the videos made me cry. I cannot believe you were able to do what you did and not break-down. How do you do it? It must have been so hard to work in that condition and know you have to be strong for the people you were working with. The kids were so very sweet and yes, they too seemed very strong. I do not think I would survive something like that, and if I did I would spend the rest of my life in depression or crying away.
I wish you all the best in all of your projects. The world needs more of you.

At August 20, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is amazing. I also read your interview in Poligazette and now I finally read this entire website. The pictures are amazing and the videos made me cry. I cannot believe you were able to do what you did and not break-down. How do you do it? It must have been so hard to work in that condition and know you have to be strong for the people you were working with. The kids were so very sweet and yes, they too seemed very strong. I do not think I would survive something like that, and if I did I would spend the rest of my life in depression or crying away.
I wish you all the best in all of your projects. The world needs more of you.

At September 29, 2008, Anonymous Tom Carew said...

Dear Tahmena,

Have been enjoying your blogs - no, it is more like slowly tasting lovely nourishing food. You bring a warm, open sensitive spirit to all you see, and your vibrant energy illuminates sights whether they are beautiful or tragic.
I do not [ yet ] know the Urdu phrase for Mash Allah, but you will teach me !!, but if I did, it woud be another way to express the kind of delightful reaction that your words and pictures both evoke. The whole of humanity, and not least the many Muslims whose image is defaced by the fanatical fringe, can only be enriched by voices such as yours....
...Your words are profound, inspiring, and challenging, yet gentle. I think of the German thinker, Gadamer who spoke of **the fusion of horizons** to signal the transformation in us when we encounter the new, yet remain our selves, and separate, altho' expanded and with a broader horizon. Maybe that vision also describes what can happen when 2 people fall in love but still remain distinct and creative individuals, sharing a lot of each other, but not submerged.
You indeed have a real gift - and your deep identification with both your Asian origins and your current Canadian life, speaks to me as an Irishman, whose people have also travelled to so many corner sof the world, yet never forget who they are, and where they came from

Some day, your gifts may also emerge in the form of a book. Reserve an autographed copy for me.

Tom Carew
Dublin, Ireland

At February 08, 2009, Blogger Jamil said...

Very nice work. I saw that you have a blog titled 'Using Photography in Social Work: Intervention & Research Method' and was interested based on the title. What is this blog about and can I kindly request to see it.



At February 09, 2009, Anonymous Tahmena Bokhari said...

Thank you to Jamil for your comment and inquiry. Unfotunately for now, those are currently restricted sites due to various confidentiality issues. Hopefully at some point in the future we can open them to everyone. The other site that is currently open is http://tahmenabokharisoutheastasia.blogspot.com/
Thanks again.

At February 09, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looking forward to more good work and news from you.

At April 28, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

April 23, 2009
Government of Pakistan is still supporting
the Taliban and other Islamist forces

Press Release:

Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri Chairman United Kashmir People’s National Party has addressed a press conference in Geneva Press Club on ongoing and emerging situation in Pakistan Federally Administered tribal areas which are adjacent to Afghanistan. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri comprehensively elaborated on all aspects on the situation, the role of state security establishment, Military and its secret agencies and also replied to the questions raised by the journalists and audiences. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri said;
Geneva holds a special significance on many accounts but Geneva Press club contribution has been pivotal in giving voice to the voiceless people, marginalized regions, underdeveloped cultures, and underrepresented nations.
The role of the UN Human Rights Council is to evolve the mechanism to stop the human rights violations and persuade the state to respect and improve the human rights record including democracy, development and human dignity set by the world community. But it is the, you media people who are catalyst in educating the people and spreading the message of human rights and protecting them. Without Media this challenge can’t be accomplished.
As people from Kashmir, our concerns, demands, views are not different than rest of the world community. We have seized this opportunity to share with your our concerns and grievances of the people from that region, and what we experience under the tyrannical rule of Pakistan military regimes over the last six decades.
I am referring to the terrorism, extremism and fundamentalism emanating from Pakistan and posing serious threat to the regional and global order. We have been expressing our serious concerns at UN Human rights forum, briefings, conferences, in the European Parliament that military in Pakistan is using extremists and fundamentalists as a foreign policy tool. Unless the Pakistan military is stopped from nurturing, breeding and infiltrating extremists across the borders, attempts to build peace whether in Afghanistan or with India is not possible.
However, world community paid little attention to our concerns and was busy in appeasing Pakistan military regime by filling their coffers so that they may genuinely extend cooperation to root-out terrorism. But now after seven years of war against terrorism and pouring billions of dollars realized that they couldn’t persuade military and ISI in Pakistan to change their course. After seven years of efforts, Taliban are taking over Pakistan bit by bit which is the vision and mechanism of Pakistan military and ISI to ensure if safe heavens of Taliban are not disturbed by the newly elected ANP government in NWFP-which subscribes secular views and may not at ease with military agenda. Terrorism remains the serious threat to the South Asian region where terrorist infrastructure is intact and their infiltration is ongoing process. Pakistan has become dangerous place in the world and its policies of using extremist resulting into serious chaos and crisis throughout region.
Replying to a question Party chairman said that, In Pakistan military establishment strongly believes that stable Afghanistan means unstable Pakistan, and unstable Afghanistan means stable Pakistan. Pakistan military is embarked upon the same policy, notion to destabilize Afghanistan. The Pakistan ISI and military has had very ambitious agenda about the expanding its sphere of influence and regional ascendancy through its proxy extremists, and has seriously been involved over the decades to recreating Islamic identity of Pakistan as opposed to the South Asian identity.
The extremists and terrorists that are viewed by West and others as threat to regional security and stability but are deemed as strategic ally and asset by military and intelligence agencies of Pakistan. This perceptional gap that persist between both West and Pakistan military can’t be filled with pouring money and opening up wallets. This strategy of persuading through pouring money and aid has further convinced them that their strategy of extremism is paying rewards and they continue to use to reap further economic and political concessions from the West and India. This strategy need to be revisited and reevaluated with changed mechanism accompanied by the accountability, transparency, progress, conditionality otherwise there are genuine risk of money may be passed on to these groups or against India as previous record support such views. In the past and recent agreements with Taliban they have compensated Taliban by paying huge amounts and releasing those terrorists and providing ample time to regroups and reorganize that idea mustn’t be encouraged by Western governments.
The policy of proliferation of extremism and nuclear are two prong approach of Pakistan military to blackmail west which is unchanged yet. The release of A.Q.Khan, Lal Mosque Imam is step towards encouraging hawkish forces and putting pressure on the West.
We would seek your support and cooperation to advance the cause of peace, human freedom, dignity, development and democracy, a dream which is being taken away from our people, region, and race by unleashing forces of obscurantism, extremism and terrorism by the Pakistan military and intelligence agency.
Describing the situation billions of people are facing in Volatile region Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri emphasized and said that our people have yet to reach to the stage of realizing humanism, liberalism and free vales when forces of darkness and extremism would cease to exist. This is the duty of free media, free nations and people living in the West to come forward to resist these forces and force and expose those governments and its network involved in dehumanizing the societies and degrading the human dignity through these forces. South Asia is experiencing worst kind of brutalism, barbarianism and terrorism in the disguise of freedom, historical fault lines, aspirations; successive Pakistani regimes have been advancing to protect their act of infiltrating extremists and terrorists across the border. But after decades world and U S now recognize that Kashmir conflict is being used as tool to protect the acts of terrorism Pakistan based extremists groups are involved in Kashmir and India. How Taliban government has abused the women in Afghanistan, and recently in Pakistan Swat where a women was publically flogged by the same elements of Pakistan. World must take serious notice of these developments which are challenging the very basis of our society, culture, human values that exist for centuries.
Highlighting the plight and miserable socio-economic and socio-political conditions of the of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan under Pakistan control Mr. Kashmiri told the journalists that these areas have become launching pad of extremists and militants against the democratic voices of the Indian administered Kashmir. Our culture is being transformed by radicalizing through preaching Jihad against India while killing its Baloch leaders who seek control on their resources and demand their legitimate socio-economic and political rights denied for six decades.
Replying to a question on terrorists training camps and infrastructure of Jihadis that continues to exist, and militants are infiltrated in Kashmir to undermine the peace process and CBMs which had begun after decades of proxy militancy and hostility. The brutal murder of Deputy Speaker of Northern Areas Legislative Council just two days ago by the same forces and ISI is aimed at to engineer communal riots to create political climate where they could seek the justification for military rule once again. The killing of Deputy Speaker is not the first incident in Gilgit Baltistan but is long list of such killings have been carried out against the majority Shia population which is deemed to be unfriendly and obstacle in the speared of extremism there. Our region and population is victim of Pakistan ISI’s ambitious agenda of using extremist as proxy army against India to capture Kashmir.
Our region suffers from poverty, illiteracy, backwardness, high child mortality rate, underdevelopment, unemployment, malnourishment, and lack of health and education facilities, in Pakistan. The Pakistan controlled Areas continue to be used against Indian administered Kashmir as militants base camps that seriously affected development and safety of the local population. The Mumbai terrorist attack was clear conspiracy against the ongoing peace process to which new civilian Pakistan government was eager to push forward. But ISI and military used it to sabotage the burgeoning India- Pakistan relations, like Musharraf had done Kargil misadventure to thwart Lahore Declaration that then PM Nawaz Sharif and Mr. Vajpayee had signed.
Our above submissions to you Journalist friends to examine judge and may merit your attention to rescue our people and region from the forces and conspiracy of Pakistan ISI to destroy our identity and culture in the name of Islam and freedom. Pakistan is at the crossroad of disintegration which poses serious threats to the region where military brasses showing no qualm over this challenging situation South Asian region is facing. World community must put proper mechanism in place to meet these challenges and possible fall-out of unraveling Pakistan.
It was the consequences of those policies that after Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan, Pakistan had manipulated entire Afghan politics and economic affairs by installing their liking Taliban regime. During Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan the training camps and terrorist network was expanded to other parts of the country in Pakistan and Pakistani Administered Kashmir. The secret agencies of Pakistan transferred their religious terrorist groups into Pakistani Administered Kashmir and started their activities from that region. Lashker e Tayyaba and many others have been carrying out destructive activities against political leadership of Jammu Kashmir from Pakistani Administered Kashmir.
They have been claiming the responsibilities of bomb attacks, and assassination of secular, progressive and democratic leadership of Jammu Kashmir from Muzaffarabad and from Muridkey a small town near Lahore Pakistan Punjab province. It is also matter of fact that Pakistani Military and secret agencies have been using two regions of former princely state of Jammu Kashmir under their illegal administration as launching pad, and to hide terrorists from the eyes of world community.
We have heralded world community to stop Pakistan of using religion as weapon and foreign policy tool, but unfortunately the world community didn’t opened its eyes and continued support Pakistani military and undemocratic forces in the country. Before proposing some suggestions I would like to explain the situation of the more marginalized people of Gilgit Baltistan, who are victimized since 1949, the people in this region have not any representation in constitutional forum and due to constitutional restraints they have not constitutional, political and socio-economic rights.
Calling upon world community, civil society and human rights defenders Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri further told the audiences that the natural resources of this region have been badly plundered since this area was illegally occupied by Pakistan in 1949, about two million people are deprived and living under fear and harassment created by Pakistani secret agencies in the area. Despite the fact that this region has given an opportunity to Pakistan to trade with its neighboring countries the state institutions have divided the people on communal lines and religious harmony was badly damaged in the region. We have serious concern that Government of Pakistan is leasing the land of this region to P-R-China which is contrary to the status of this region and Pakistan promises with the world community. The political and civil society actors in the region are facing extreme pressure and they are often tortured and arrested by the security agencies of Pakistan just because they demand human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Mr.Kashmiri said that Pakistan's national institutions have long history, today we are facing religious hatred and extremism and day by day extremist forces are expanding their constituency while the constituency of peace, stability, economic growth, and human rights is shrinking. Pakistani army has surrendered or pushing their agenda but one thing is very clear that 7 hundred thousand military is not ready to fight against these assets who always used against Pakistan’s democratic forces by the undemocratic force of Pakistan.
He explains that before all these regions motivated forces and militants’ religious organization have very close links with army and ISI. He said that when where Pakistani army want to fight, they have instrument to see the person who escape and trying to save his life in a cave but army dig out him and later killed him but in Swat valley Sufi Mohammed and his fighters are capturing the area and even they have implemented Sharia in their occupied area and civilian government is forced to sign agreement with them. Now they are moving towards Islamabad and issued fatwa that existing modern judicial system in Pakistan is unilamic and we will change it by force. We know and everybody knows that without army’s support they can't move or captured any area or land, just one year before from whole Swat valley gave the mandate to the ANP which is a secular party and believe in non violent path of struggle. In one year how we can think that Sufi Mohammed is getting support from public and public took gun against those who were just elected by them.
It is our duty to expose these policies and strategy of undemocratic force and defend the civilian rule. Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri appreciated the statement of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and extent his full support. He further said that whole region is suffering due to illegal activities of secret agencies of Pakistan. Mr. Kashmiri loudly asked that these groups are stooges and proxies of ISI and ISI wanted to create more influence and capture more land through these proxies, otherwise Mullah Umer or Sufi Mohammad is nothing except new Mullah Aziz of Lal Masjid. United States and other countries should take confidence on those who know the real designs of these extremists.
At the end of press conference Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri Chairman United Kashmir People’s National Party has extended some pragmatic suggestions for the regional democratic, secular forces as well as for the world community to think upon them seriously.

I would like to persuade European Politicians to take up following points before the Pakistani Government to guarantee and empower the local people in Pakistani Administered Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan.
1. A fact finding mission should be established to oversee social- economical, constitutional cultural, educational, developmental situation in both regions of Pakistani Administered Kashmir (So called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan).

2. The huge money was given to rebuilt 2005, earthquake, is misused and after three years have gone nothing done in this regard and thousands of people are looking for help and compelled to live in the temporary shelters. The European Union which has given millions of Euros to rehabilitate and develop infrastructure in the region, is gone into the pockets of the ERRA (Earthquake Relief and Rehabilitation Authority), headed by a military General. We fear that, money is used to strengthen terrorist organizations in the region. While the effected people were left like unattended orphans.

3. We have serious concerns over the judicial crisis of Pakistan. We recommend that in order to establish and strengthen democracy, rule of law and independent judiciary is inevitable and that the liking and disliking in state institutions must be discouraged by the world community. The local authorities at Muzaffarabad has always adopted the same fashion of political culture in Pakistani Administered Kashmir and have appointed a Chief Justice of supreme court and the most senior Judge of Supreme Court, Justice Manzoor Gilani is superseded by a Junior Judge and appointed as Chief justice. In AJK High Court Justice Sardar Nawaz Khan Working as Adhoc Chief Justice since last three years but Government has not appointing him as permanent Chief Justice. Undemocratic forces don’t want independent judiciary, they always relay on subservient judiciary so Pakistani government should pressurized for independent Judiciary. The system of personal liking and disliking should abolished, system of merit; transparency and accountability should prevail in all state institutions.

4. The terrorist infrastructure is still intact and top wanted culprit of Mumbai attacks was arrested from Muzaffarabad. Despite ban imposed on such terrorist organizations, they have got the blessings of Pakistani state institutions and security establishment. Terrorist infrastructure must be in real term dismantle, not just in announcement in TV and news papers .Under these circumstances we can say that the former military Government of Pakistan and their continuation in present regime Pakistani state institutions have been befooling world community that religious armed groups have been disarmed and banned properly.

5. We strongly urge and request to the world community to ask Government of Pakistan to guarantee freedom of speech, assembly, freedom of thoughts and that all political parties should be allowed to take part in elections and democratic process.

6. That the constitutional restraints imposed on democratic and pro-people and pro-independence political parties of Pakistani Administered Kashmir must end now.

7. Pakistan and local authorities at Muzaffarabad should collect a data of educated

8. Unemployed youth in the region and a proper arrangement of their respectable livelihood are arranged.

9. We also request to the world community that Government of Pakistan must emphasize to establish industries in both regions, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan in order to overcome unemployment.

10. That the hatred literature must be banned throughout the country, and such literature should be banned from the schools as well.

11. It is also matter of fact that military is claiming that she is prepared to counter any escalation, but why she is unable to stop the broadcasting of illegal FM radio stations in Federally Administered Tribal Areas? In our views it is not possible without the blessings of the military and secret agencies so that they can get more funds from the western countries and United States in the name of war on terror.

We strongly urge world community to ask Pakistan to take serious steps against those who involved in killings of political leaders, civil society activists, and political activists in Gilgit Baltistan. That the construction of Basha dam in the region must be halted and plundering of natural resources must be stopped and these areas immediately handed over and reunited with rest of Jammu Kashmir.

Sardar Shaukat Ali Kashmiri

United Kashmir People’s National Party

At July 19, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At September 05, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heard you speak last night. You were great. The video showed was touching. Although only few minutes I would not been able to watch more of the children hurt that way. Must have taken a lot to see them like that in person and work directly with them. I would donate to your cause always as I could not go on the ground and do the work the way you do.

At September 14, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved your presentation a few evenings back, very eye-opening. Looking fwd to your publications.

At October 05, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved reading this.

At February 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing work here. So nice to have it recognized by Musharraff and otehr dignitaries. You really are helping give Pakistanis a better image around the world. Thank you.

At February 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this. I do agree that although there is some corruption, our people really showed the world our humanitarian spirit after this earthquake. There were many bad stories, but 1000 times more good stories. We did the best we could under the circumstances as a nation and far better than Katrina and Haiti. Amir

At February 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are a true champion for the cause. You do not let us forget, even 5 years later. Many have moved on and certainly media has forgotten the good side of Pakistan.

At February 26, 2010, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. It is wonderful to see that you are so active and still working for the cause. We need more education like this here in the West.

At February 26, 2010, Anonymous Saira said...

You are so passionate about this. Many have long forgot the earthquake and many have forgot Pakistan all together. You said you admire the presidents belief in the people, well I admire your passion and your belief in the people. You are just a citizen, a remarkable one and for you to take this on for so long shows your passion for the cause.

At February 26, 2010, Anonymous SHAH said...


At February 26, 2010, Anonymous Raheela Khan said...

I finally found the comments section after going through your site for the past few days. I really like this blog, it is very informative and so inspiring. Thank you for your work, Pakistan needs it.

At March 15, 2010, Anonymous Mr Shah said...

I have to tell you that I admire Tahmena Bokhari a great deal and support her and anything she participates in. It is sad to say that in my many years, many travels and the wide network of friends that I have I do not know many Pakistani women or any nationality of women to be like Tahmena. Women like her are rare and we must support them, she is what leadership is made out of.

Tahmena is bold, educated, strong, independent, caring, a humanitarian, family oriented and all these qualities in one person who seems to carry it all so well and make it look easy. She is the most well balanced and well rounded person I know.

Tahmena has done a lot, more than many so called leaders that I know, more than these politicians and certainly more than many men I know. Tahmena advocates to be a strong and positive person, to contribute to your community and to know yourself. She has worked for the community since she was just a child, has served over 7000 clients, selflessly donating her time, money and energy to Pakistanis and others.

She lived with the victims of the earthquake in tents, she served in countries around the world, lived in tiny dirty sheds with the people she was serving and not in a hotel, she helped feed the kids of these poor widowed women, as dirty and sick as they were she held them in her arms where many would not even want to be near them. She wanted to be with the people, to understand them and help them in a way that they wanted. She did not have to do that, but she did! She does not have to do anything at all, but she does. Many in her shoes are using their education and money only to help themselves. She is using her privilege to promote the messages she believes in and for justice, which quite frankly many do not have the know-how or the guts to do.

Women have not been encouraged in our community to dream big and then work on their dreams, and that is what Tahmena is giving to a lot of women.

Thank you

At March 15, 2010, Anonymous Susan said...

I love this woman, so bold! She does it for passion not money or votes like many of the men who do it. She has guts and drive, qualities that all men and women can learn from. Bravo Ms. Bokhari!

At March 28, 2010, Anonymous Rubina said...

I live in Vaughan and just read an article about Tahmena Bokhari, who is acting in ambassador role for Pakistan. I am so proud that a Pakistani woman is doing this and is preaching messages of peace and diversity no matter what caste, creed or religion. This is the kind of leadership we need!


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