An Evening with Hassan Nisar
By Tahir Ali

Massachusetts: “INDIA and PAKISTAN BECOME NATIONS.” These were headlines reported in the New York Times on August 15, 1947 in bold letters. Reporter Robert Trumbull also added: “Ceremonies in New Delhi and Karachi - Mark Independence for 400,000,00 persons.“ Similarly, The Dawn on the same day carried Lord Mountbatten’s message with the headline: “May Pakistan Prosper always” and Times of India carried the resounding words: “BIRTH of INDIA’s FREEDOM.”

Pakistan and India got their freedom from British Raj in the holy month of Ramadan at the stroke of midnight of August 14 (Ramadan 27th) and August 15 1947, respectively. Now sixty-five years later once again the independence day of August 14, 2012 happened to fall on Laila-tul-Qadr in the holy month of Ramadan.

The team which successfully organized the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital fundraiser in Boston early this year, decided to celebrate the Eid Milan party and Independence Day celebrations on the same day, August 24, 2012. The icing on the cake this time around was not PTI’s personalities Fauzia Kasuri but rather Hassan Nisar who was invited as the guest of honor.

Hassan Nisar, a syndicated columnist and an analyst, is a frequent guest on Pakistan television, specifically Geo TV where he has several talk shows of his own as well. He is both cherished and scorned because of his candid remarks on current affairs. He speaks out his mind and holds no punches. This blunt but honest behavior resonates rather well amongst the youth who apparently tired of the usual rhetoric see Nisar as a mindset change agent and a hope for the bright future of Pakistan. It is with this resolve Hassan Nisar embarked on a 14-day tour of the United States to address the youth and students of Pakistani origin - he characterized this effort as “country outreach”.

Host committee members Rashid Shaikh and Dr. Mushtaque had their work cut out for them - drive all the way to New York to pick up Hassan Nisar arriving from Pakistan and drive him back to Boston. Then after the event drop him at South Windsor in Connecticut for another speaking engagement. According to Rashid Shaikh and Dr. Mohammad Mushtaque the journey was most enjoyable and by their own submission there was “never a dull moment”.

The event in the evening was held in Lady Carmel Church in Worcester City. The event format was described as a three-tier program - viz-a-viz The Eid Milan festivities, Independence (Pakistan/India) Day celebrations and a thought-provoking dialogue with Hassan Nisar. The ladies predominantly [spearheaded by Humaira Shaikh, Shahida Balapariya, Shazia Majid and many others] arranged various stalls: colorful dresses, henna, face painting, children programs including movies. The men [spearheaded by Dr. Khalid Sadozai, Mohammad Ilyas, Mian aashiq and others] were busy with the food arrangements. Both women and children received great gifts - courtesy of Mian Aashiq and family.

The Independence Day presentation was solely prepared and delivered by the youth: Hassan Shaikh, Faraz Ilyas, Zain Shaikh, Afshaan Rindani and Hibah Maqdum.

Khalid Kazi recited a Naat written by Hassan Nisar.

It was decided that the serious discussion with Hassan Nisar needed to take place in a more conducive environment - hence Rashid Shaikh offered his house.

Khalid Kazi asked Hassan Nisar, “--- most of your talk shows and programs focus on the spiritual, social, economic and political downfall of Muslim Ummah and you narrate this reality with historical background. Though most of your findings cannot be denied but will we remain dismayed and dejected forever or you have a roadmap, a plan to elevate this nation in every field.”

Hassan Nisar responded, “We tend to measure success of any nation mostly by the economic footing of that nation, therefore to bring about our wellbeing we have always sketched plans to elevate our economies which is wrong.” He elaborated by giving the example of the Quraish of Makkah who were not an economic power and our Prophet (SAW) was not concerned about the economy - first he built the character of his followers - the economy simply followed and then they also became an economic power. He argued, “we have been characterless for many years - our nation also needs character building.”

Hassan Nisar pointed out that work needs to be done with the youth. The audience agreed that PTI has managed to draw youths to participate in local politics who otherwise were completely oblivious to the political system”

Rashid Shaikh recalled what Hassan Nisar later told him: “After meeting and greetings over 400 adults and 100+ kids we came back to Rashid Shaikh’s residence and had a three-hour session with approximately 70 Pakistani-Americans. Mrs Humaira Shaikh is a great host, she offered hand-made chicken patties, kabobs, cream rolls and sweets which were amazingly delicious. The crowd left after 2:00 AM, I went to bed but could not sleep as many thoughts were still going in my mind. Shaikh sahib called me out and we had great breakfast once again prepared by Mrs. Shaikh.

We left Shrewsbury, MA for South Windsor CT(1.5 hour west) and arrived at Resham Pakistani Restaurant where I spoke with 100 doctors, intellectuals, and PTI supporters. This function was arranged by known social worker and first Pakistani American assembly man from CT, Dr. Saud Anwar. Even with our grim past people are optimistic about Pakistan and Imran Khan and willing to do whatever for its revival. This is really a pleasant surprise and a sign of hope for me. I was also very excited to meet my old friends and their familes who I have not met for 30 years. We had a delicious lunch and then we went to Dr. Saud’s home to get some rest. But we started another dialogue so there was no such thing as rest.”

Rafi Khan of Insaf Student Federation has been organizing youth of Pakistan almost on a full time basis. Rafi Khan will be accompanying Hassan Nisar in the United Staes. Both Rafi and Rashid Shaikh, an elected official in the town of Shrewsbury, reportedly had chalked out Nisar’s speaking engagements as follows: Boston, MA (Friday Aug 24) , S. Windsor, Ct (Saturday Aug 25), Chicago, il (Sunday 8/26), Detroit, Mi (Monday Aug 27), Las Vegas, Nev (Thursday Aug 30), Los Angeles, Ca (Friday Aug 31), Texas (Saturday Sept. 1), Washington DC (Sunday Sept. 4) and finally New York City.

(Rizwan Sheikh provided the photos for the article. Tahir Ali is the author of the book “Muslim Vote Counts.” published by Wyndham Hall in 2004)

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