Omair Anwar

Your performance cape crusader

The next time you are about to give up on what you love… — October 24, 2015

The next time you are about to give up on what you love…

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right” – Henry Ford.

I don’t know about you guys but I’ve given up in my life on so many occasions that I’ve lost count. I gave up when I saw October Sky and wanted to become “that guy in space” and my family told me Pakistanis don’t have a decent NASA. I gave up my childhood dream on becoming an archaeologist when I saw Indiana Jones and my parents told me I had severe eczema. I gave up on my pursuit of becoming a top journalist because my parents thought journalism isn’t as mainstream as becoming an Electrical Engineer. Let’s be clear, it is and yet it isn’t really a “desi” thing. One might argue our parents have significant influence in the decisions one makes but then again I’ve seen kids my age pursue with their own dreams irrespective of their parents desires.

But then again I’ve given up on love and hopeless crushes as well. Sometimes you just have to let go they said. I think giving up should always be preceded by self-reflection. I really wish and preach if as a society we could nurture the habit of resilience rather than giving up when it comes to our dreams.  I want you to know an open secret – you can have everything only if you believe in yourself. Yes, the next time you want to pursue in to becoming an astrophysicist, you can. The next time you wish you can bring world peace – you can. The world will always conspire to help in achieving what your heart really wants. What my biggest desire right now is to reach out to you; yes you. You, who is right now thinking how to attain your professional goals in life. I want you to know that next time you’re about to give on a profession you love, you can give another try with me. I’m deeply passionate to help you and ensure you don’t give up. But there is a very simple caveat for you to achieve what you want – you must always, always believe in yourself. Only YOU can achieve what your heart covets; I am going to be the facilitator. Please reach out to me through this blog.

Energy Crisis in Pakistan — August 1, 2012

Energy Crisis in Pakistan

Energy Crisis in Pakistan

Pakistan, along with a lot of other developing countries is going through a massive energy crisis that is leading to multi faceted problems – increase in raw materials for manufacturing facilities, decreasing production capacities, rising inflation and most importantly social unrest in the wake of severe electricity-cuts across the country. Whoever comes in the next election in Pakistan needs to deliver on this front.

Believe in Impossible Loves — July 25, 2012

Believe in Impossible Loves

During my MBA at Lahore School of Economics, I did a project on “Challenges of Bank Lending to the Small and Medium Enterprise” and while making that presentation, I came across the following video on how entrepreneurs are these fantastic people who believe in impossible loves. These people are proactive. According to the “INSEAD Global Innovation Index”, Pakistanis are one of the most creative lots. I hope whoever comes across this video feels as much inspired as I am to bring across a positive and sustainable change in Pakistan.

The Meaning of Being Pakistani — July 24, 2012

The Meaning of Being Pakistani

If you are a Pakistani reading this, chances are you would repudiate what I have written. But my goal in writing this is to change the paradigm for most ambitious young people like me.

When I was previously working at Fauji Fertilizer Bin Qasim Limited (FFBL:KA), we initially underwent a month orientation regarding the plant-related procedures. One of the managers there however took a different approach by asking us who we collectively were and we gave a unanimous answer that we were Muslims. It is fantastic when I come to think about it – to a simple question, our answer was based on our religion and not our citizenship. None of us said we were Pakistanis. To add insult to injury, the manager put forward another question and asked what sort of Muslims were we. Here, we diverged in our answers and some said Sunni, Wahabi, Shia etc. And he looked hard at us and said, “You are wrong”.

“How dare someone tell us we are wrong about our personal beliefs?” was the common thought embraced by us thirty two trainee engineers sitting in the conference room at that time. On silent reflection, I have come to the conclusion how right my former manager was.

With the emergence of big-data in the form of social networking websites, I have come to the conclusion that nothing sells like religion in this world. However, when it comes to our country Pakistan, the process of ideation, marketing, selling and buying of religious beliefs is extremely convex. The fundamental problem starts with the human beings existing in our country itself. We Pakistanis by and large are reactive people – we do not know how to direct our emotions. Our emotions make us blind to the point we are not able to differentiate the truth from the lie. Take a look at the recent example of the Burma “Massacre”. While nobody is denying the ethnic violence taking place in the country, there are certain groups that through shameless social media campaign have made the general masses in this country believe that more than twenty thousand (20,000) Muslims have been butchered by the Buddhists there. A blogger Faraz Ahmed (see the link here: Muslims Killing in Burma and our Social Media/Islamic Parties) took up the courage of finding the truth and found out the harsh truth that all the pictures circulating over Facebook were falsely edited/tagged. It is bemusing since in one corner we are aggrieved at the deaths of the Muslims occurring in another country but turning a deaf ear to the ethnic violence existing in our very own country. But alas, I forgot the Hazaras of Balochistan are not “Muslims” in literal terms and therefore do not require our thoughts, prayers at all. Dr. Abdus Salam is an epitome of such ethnic biases existing in our country whose contributions led to discovery of the Higgins-Boss particle. But he was an Ahmedi and does not require the level of respect he did as a human.

Our second problem is that it is not the low level of education that causes these biases to exist. No, my conclusion is that we as a nation resist to learn. Learned people are proactive people who understand that their actions have a direct consequence on their environment – both the micro and the macro. We as a nation refuse to learn from our experiences –  whether there are good or bad. This has sadly made us believe that our lives are inconsequential.

So coming back to the perennial question – who are we? It is my understanding that although this is the most difficult question to answer but still there is a certain mechanism that needs to be employed if we want to remain gelled as a nation. We collectively, are a group of humans who were born on the soil of a country named “Pakistan” and not “Muslimistan”. Here is where I believe I need to tell my fellow country-men that you were not the only country that was formed on the basis of kalma. Israel, East Timur and countless other countries were formed on the basis of religion but the primary difference between us and those other nations that they got over the religious part and came back to the basic front. They realized that for any country to progress, they need to overcome the bias of religion.

Out of the 180 million population most of us are going to live, breathe and die on this land. So the question is – can we give up religion as a periphery of the slating men and women existing on this land and care for the greater good of this country? Yes, our forefathers got this piece of land on the homage “Pakistan ka matlab kia, la illaha illal la, Muhammad ur rasul ullah”, but being Pakistani is beyond that – it is acknowledging the teachings of a man who went to tender a sick woman who used to throw dirt and rubbish over him as he passed by, a man who was a trader as a profession and not a hermit, a man who did not hole up his followers in a room and made them rot the Qur’an but  rather allowed the  prisoners-of-war from the Badr War to pay jizya in the form of educating the children of the faithful. Yes, this one man was above the current religious brand that has been bestowed upon us by our forefathers and our media. He was an innovator. How many “Islamic” scholars in these current times would use such “heretic” words in preaching the “Muslims” existing in this nation?

Finally, Jalluluddin Rumi once mused (because Rumi never wrote his thoughts and those were written by his followers):

“Why do you stay in prison
when the door is so wide open?”

We sadly have become a mockery as a nation. This sentence might be hard to swallow against our “pride”. But the only way forward for us is to  appreciate the true glue that can be used to bind the people in this country, and that glue is depositioning the current meaning of being and embrace one of our reasons for existence – we were born as Pakistanis and we owe it to this land in making progressive in every possible way.

Pakistani Youth: On the Realms of Authenticity — March 5, 2012

Pakistani Youth: On the Realms of Authenticity

Pakistan’s youth is in a dilemma. They believe that change is about to come in Pakistan very soon. From years of hopelessness, they are now moving towards a utopian world where everything would be correct. “Corruption has met its match” is the slogan. But has it? It is high time the youth of this nation have a reality check of what has happened with them. In this piece, I shall try to make a cogent argument that the change starts from oneself.

Recently, I came across a video on TED (a wed podcast for ground-breaking ideas), where Joseph Pine opined how corporations have evolved to understand that the core of business success is authenticity (see the talk here: Authenticity and Consumers)  and it made me realize how true it is for the human endeavor itself to be authentic. So what is authenticity? Authenticity is being True-True: being true to oneself and translating that truth in the correct manner to the outside. That is the essence of success in the long run. That is what makes the fabric of society sustainable. But what does it have to do with the Pakistani youth? Well, pretty much everything.

The youth has never been collectively mobilized to achieve its potential.  It all starts from the first tier of social integration: how the bulk of the society is brought up in their family system. As time progresses, we are mostly taught to believe that failing is bad; that making wrong choices will ultimately send us to hell and to remain alive, the only thing that matters is getting a “good” job that will determine the future stream of cash inflows, resulting in a burgeoning bank balance and life would be happily ever after. If anything, we have been making the bulk of this society regressive – a steady conditioning and polarizing and self or forced involvement in the belief that their sole objective in life is to make money; a huge pile of money. Most of the youth have never been given the opportunity to express themselves. While it may be argued that the bulk of the society has socio-economic constraints and that their children do not (or did not) have the same opportunities to express themselves as of those being brought up with a silver spoon in their mouth. But, the parents themselves are to take their share of blame because they never took out the time to get to know their children. The usual rhetoric that the parents did not have “time” is not only convex but also is a source of forced comfort for them to believe that they are right; never caring that their actions have resulted in collateral damage for the growth of human capacity for their children.

The other problem is the youth’s interaction with the second tier of social integration: the institutions beyond the eyes of the youth’s family. They might vary from friends to teachers at schools, colleges etc. Frustrated inside because of the “forced” options in lives, these interaction over the years have moulded the personality of the individual to a point that his or her behavior towards the society in return becomes irrevocable. Our school books, our media and sadly at the forefront, our elders have projected certain lies time and again in such a manner that the youth has been conditioned to believe in them. I would like to focus on only one of them, because it is my belief that this lie touches the core of all lies on which we have been spawned on since the existence of Pakistan; that the only hope Pakistan has is it finding itself the right leader.

Time and again, the Pakistani youth has been made to believe in this False-False relationship: once upon a time, Pakistan had only one true leader Jinnah and every other leader plundered this nation so therefore to break this cycle of depravity, we need another Jinnah. If Jinnah were alive he would be mortified to know how his fellow country-men could never get over the fact that his achievements were bounded by his life-span and not theirs. That we have engulfed not only ourselves but our youth to suppose that here was a person whose prodigious achievements were because of some God gifted abilities and if Pakistan does not get more of him, the country would seize to exist. But Pakistan is still right here and the young in the past have become old of today and this cycle would likely to continue. Sadly, we have comforted ourselves in forgetting the true authenticity that Jinnah wanted in his country-men. That authenticity was: knowing yourself and your own ability to bring the change that you want.

The youth of Pakistan – it serves as an engine for the growth of this country as a whole, But the question is when will we start being authentic – individually and collectively? When will the youth understand that certain humans are not the solution for the sustainability of this country: but the individuals are a fraction that completes the whole. If the depravity is social, then it is not late for the youth to challenge these impediments. If the youth wants to end corruption, then it means moral accountability on their own part. Yes, that means they need to stop cheating in exams and/or stop finding short cuts to success in their lives. Yes, that means for them to stand up to their peers and tell them that they need to throw the waste in the garbage drum. If the depravity is economic then yes it means that they have to cut down on spending and start saving for the future. Yes it means that they have to stand up to their own beliefs and find out what mode of economic progression is the right one for them. And finally, and one of the most important – if the depravity is religious then when will they start understanding if they were brave enough to study our genealogy, would not they come to the conclusion that we all eventually come from the same womb?

Please, let us not limit ourselves in our beliefs. Let us move forward collectively and build this nation. Let us stop delving in our pasts and focus on the present and start being truthful to ourselves and to the future youth. We owe it to them.