Author Tehmina Durrani announced that she was embarking on a “new jihad” to rehabilitate children affected by war as she briefed the media on her new book here on Thursday.
“We have to take all children of war inclusively, whether they are targeted by drone strikes, by the Taliban or any other terrorist organisation,” said Durrani, whose novel Happy Things in Sorrow Times was launched by Ferozsons in Islamabad on June 29. The first edition of the book was sold out in two weeks.
Durrani emerged for the briefing amidst tight security and a heavy media presence. A short film based on an excerpt from the book was played before she spoke. Her talk largely revolved around her struggles in life, and her appreciation of the media which had supported her in difficult times.
“In 1991 I was very alone. I struggled. But the media stood strong by my side, especially the print media,” she said. She compared her life at the time to verses from a poem by Muneer Niazi. “Ik aur darya ka saamna tha muneer mujh ko (I faced another river to cross, oh Muneer’),” she said.
Durrani, who is married to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, stressed that she was expressing her opinions. “I am not sitting here in a position other than as a citizen of the country,” she said.
She said her mission in life was to work for peace. This calling had developed naturally, she said, as a consequence of her struggles in life. It began when she first decided to break her silence about her abusive marriage in her first book, My Feudal Lord, and continued in her fight for the rights of acid burn victims, particularly Fakhra Younus.
Durrani said that her latest book attempted to capture the perceptions of a child trapped in a time of war. “The story has been written softly and gently and is presented through the eyes of a child,” she said.
For her, the book marked the beginning of a new struggle. “I am now prepared for a new jihad,” she said. She demanded security for and the rehabilitation of children affected by war. “When we stand up, the leadership will bow before us,” she said.
She said that world leaders could not be allowed to “walk scot free from” the conflict in Afghanistan. “The peace that the global leadership aspired to achieve through this war has in fact endangered the world forever,” she said. “We should not be known as the generation that left the world in so much turmoil.”
The author said that she was setting up a fund which citizens across the globe would be asked to contribute towards. The money would be used to rebuild the lives of children affected by the conflict in Afghanistan. She did not say exactly when her “jihad” would be launched, but an announcement would come within two weeks.
Asked about children suffering from conflicts within Pakistan, she said her campaign would seek to help them too. “Obviously, we have to respond to those affected by internal conflicts, particularly our children,” she said.
Durrani said that she intended to seek the federal government’s support for her programme, but stressed that it had no political affiliation. “I am not speaking through a political platform. My job is to inspire,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.