The lone warrior - Jibran Nasir

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Mohammad Jibran Nasir stands firm in his stance against extremism despite countless challenges. PHOTO: MEHWISH RIZVI

Mohammad Jibran Nasir stands firm in his stance against extremism despite countless challenges. PHOTO: MEHWISH RIZVI

Social activist, politician and lawyer, Mohammad Jibran Nasir first entered the political arena when he contested the 2013 elections as an independent candidate for NA-250 in Karachi. However, it is his recent standoff against the controversial Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz — who openly defended the deadly attack on Army Public School, Peshawar, in December and is known to have links with militant outfits — which has pushed him into national spotlight.

The 27-year-old has since organised additional protests, appeared on talk shows and fuelled his campaign primarily through social media. At the crux of all these activities is a straightforward demand: to eliminate all extremist, hate-mongering elements from the political, religious and social discourse in the country. The campaign’s most recent target of criticism has been the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ). “The protest against the ASWJ, formerly Sippah-e-Sahaba, created a lot of awareness about banned outfits and the state’s patronage towards them. At the same time, it also made our citizens campaign more aggressive [since] Aurangzeb Farooqi, as opposed to Abdul Aziz, is more public and unapologetic about creating sectarian hatred,” says Nasir.

While civil society has commended Nasir’s bravado and many have even stepped up in support of his mission, the job comes with its fair share of risks. “In the beginning, he was suspicious of certain people, and the paranoia from the call caused a lot of stress,” says Talha Rehman, Nasir’s cousin and a member of his de facto advisory board. The call he is referring to was received by Nasir during the Lal Masjid standoff. The caller, a spokesperson for a banned outfit, warned Nasir to cease his activism. No tangible threats have publically emerged since, but the incident has had a lasting impact.

Nasir is a marked man. He no longer lives at home, instead spending his nights moving from one friend’s house to another, altering his movement patterns. Even his mother, who constantly fears for his life, barely gets to see him. And the fear is not unwarranted: Pakistan has a long and sordid history of assassinations of public figures and this raises a fair share of concern for Nasir. Despite the security concerns, Nasir uses public transport and moves around without any security.

According to Nasir’s close friends, the stress of his campaign has taken an emotional, physical and mental toll on him, affecting his close relationships. There is, however, a unanimous agreement on his courage. “The risks he is taking, perceived or real, are tangible for him,” says Rehman. “He may be this great public figure, but privately, he is tired, lonely and under a lot of stress. But the one thing he is not, is afraid.”

Nasir feels that the greatest threat is not to his life, but to his credibility as many have expressed doubts about his intentions. He has been accused by various groups and parties of being a member of a Shia organisation, an Ahmadi, a RAW agent and a tout for western powers, paid through NGOs. Mostly recently, on February 15, 2015, a First Information Report application was filed against Nasir and another activist, Khurram Zaki, alleging that they are members of a banned Shia outfit. Nasir says some of his close friends and family members have also questioned him about links to the army or accused him of undertaking the cause for attention and popularity. “My intentions are doubted a hundred times a day. But I will continue to go out on the roads, call the terrorists out by their names in front of their headquarters and hope that Pakistanis will one day step out of their fear and take on these goons.”

Moreover, political pundits, media personalities, and religious opposition have also posited the hand of foreign governments, the army, certain political parties and even religious lobbies as Nasir’s sources of funding. “My protests have no massive infrastructure. There are no huge speakers or elaborate sound systems or rows of chairs at any of my protests,” he says, adding that a protest in Islamabad on the one-month anniversary of the APS attacks was the only one that required funding as the costs added up to nearly Rs500,000. The expenditure was covered by willing Pakistanis in their individual capacities, Nasir says.

To address the issue of transparency, Nasir also plans to add a tab on his website which will track all donations and show where the money is being spent. Nasir’s days are spent brainstorming with his advisory board, determining the next steps for his movement, tentatively titled #ReclaimPakistan. His eventual goal, he says, is to rid Pakistan of extremist elements from its main urban centres. He feels he has a civic responsibility to fight this war in the cities while the Army already fights in places like North Waziristan and Tirah Valley. And that the battle comes with numerous challenges and sacrifices is a reality not lost on Nasir.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, February 22nd, 2015.

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Reader Comments (24)

  • Ali ahmed
    Feb 22, 2015 - 1:31PM

    It’s about time jibran Nasir starts condemning the fascist Mqm by name too since he is leading a reclaim pakistan campaign. Recommend

  • Zawarmas
    Feb 22, 2015 - 1:43PM

    He is a true patriot and an inspirational leader. Courage is something only a few handful people can exhibit. Wish him all the best and may he achieve what he dreams! Ameen.Recommend

  • Mohammad Jibran Nasir
    Feb 22, 2015 - 2:01PM

    Thank you for doing the story as I felt the need to publicly discuss how the protests are funded i.e. through the citizens of Pakistan who volunteered themselves to help. But I do not agree with the title of this piece. This is not a one man campaign. We are few but I am not alone. There are other brave souls all across Pakistan working with me without whom this campaign would not be possible. Recommend

  • Zaman
    Feb 22, 2015 - 3:38PM

    You are hope Jibran. Proud of you.Recommend

  • Lone Star
    Feb 22, 2015 - 3:48PM

    I wish him best of luck, he’s my favourite person in Pakistan currently who could foresee the future of my beloved country. We need to separate religion from the state. This is the only key to success. Find competent people by ignoring their religious & family backgrounds, curb mullahs & their influence by educating masses.Recommend

  • Feb 22, 2015 - 3:52PM

    He is the real face of Pakistan Civil Society. He is not alone, we all stand by him and will stand there until the religious beats are chained for life.
    My Salute to Jibran. Recommend

  • Ali Mohsin
    Feb 22, 2015 - 4:09PM

    BRAVORecommend

  • Lord
    Feb 22, 2015 - 4:22PM

    You are really a hero who has the ability of distinguishing the oppressed from the oppressor, standing tall for the oppressed. May that requires standing against your own. Hatts off to you. May Allah help you in your bid. I would have been with you if I was not the only son in the family. Sorry bro for showing up but my prays are with you always. Recommend

  • Mak
    Feb 22, 2015 - 5:19PM

    Nothing but profound Respect for this man.Recommend

  • ishrat salim
    Feb 22, 2015 - 5:23PM

    May Allah swt protect you Jibran. May Allah swt give you success at what you are aiming at…we pray for your safety & success. It is not easy in our country, where we start to doubt a person`s intention, because we live in a place full of hypocrisy & identity problem. As long your mother is alive & in sha Allah she will, her prayer will always protect you. Allah swt protect those who fights for others….Recommend

  • Salman Ali
    Feb 22, 2015 - 6:07PM

    @Ali Ahmed! We all are as much Pakistanis as Nasir is. It is time we all contribute to this cause instead of pointing out the problems.Recommend

  • Shadow
    Feb 22, 2015 - 6:37PM

    lol He didnt said a single word for MQM’s atrocities…selective activism is it??Recommend

  • Feb 22, 2015 - 7:20PM

    Jibran, You are the voice of the millions of silent Pakistanis. I hope, one day, your voice turn into millions of voices. Insha’ Allah. Recommend

  • riggie
    Feb 22, 2015 - 9:45PM

    Got proof he’s lonely? Anyhow, it’s always best to stand alone instead of standing with skanks, but it’s good to see he’s really not alone.Recommend

  • Parvez
    Feb 22, 2015 - 11:08PM

    I am with Jibran…….but I won’t come out onto the streets…..well…SHAME ON ME. Recommend

  • kharal
    Feb 23, 2015 - 1:28AM

    you have made pakistan proud and voices like you would eliminate terrorism, corruption and nepotism soon Recommend

  • Aamir
    Feb 23, 2015 - 2:07AM

    I am proud of you. I wish I could join you. You are the real pakistani, you are a real Muslim, you are one of the few humans of Pakistan. May Allah bless you and keep you safe. Recommend

  • A Patriot Pakistani Ahmadi Muslim
    Feb 23, 2015 - 4:03AM

    Good on you Jibran – You are doing a great job. Lets eliminate these so-called ‘Thekaydars’ of Islam and Pakistan who have hijacked our beautiful country and work together to bring peace, harmony and tolerance. Love for All, Hatred for None.Recommend

  • Fazal Dad
    Feb 23, 2015 - 4:06AM

    Hats off to the young man and to his courage. We need more like him. Stay safe.Recommend

  • Yasmin Khoja
    Feb 23, 2015 - 5:12AM

    You are my hero, Mohammad Jibran Nasir! You have shown courage that so few possess in Pakistan today. Not only do you represent the Civil Society, you are also honesty, integrity, justice and humanity personified. May Allah protect you at all times, and grant you success in your sincere efforts to eradicate evil from our country. Recommend

  • Zain
    Feb 23, 2015 - 8:03AM

    Nasir is very bold , commited and dedicated person of the coward society of pakistan. he is the one who take the name of MQM in front of them in karachi. he is the one who manage protest infromt of lal masjid . he is the one who always raised vouice againts target killing, banned organaziation, shia genocide and againts curruppt politiciation. he is the hope for menorities, hope for poor peoples , he is the hope for the matyered mothers and families. so Nasir doing extremely good job in his avaialble capacity and if he is a Army personal then it is most good decesion for doing these thing by Army. we salute nasir and Pak Army.Recommend

  • Salim Jan
    Feb 23, 2015 - 8:18AM

    It is o.k Nadir Jib ran is raising a forceful voice against religious extremism and sectarian violence.But his sincerity and patriotism is doubted because he doesn’t raise voice against ethnic terrorism in his home town of Karachi.Will he muster up courage to arrange a sit-in for bringing to justice the culprits who burnt to ashes 257 persons in his bastion?Would he be brave enough to demand de-weaponisation of Karachi and run a campaign against the extortionists?If he wants public acceptance,his approach needs to be above the board.Recommend

  • Zeenia
    Feb 23, 2015 - 2:30PM

    Wish you all the best Jibran. I voted for you in the last elections and will continue to support you. Our country needs more and more people like you. I hope you stay safe and continue the good work.Recommend

  • Bablu
    Feb 23, 2015 - 5:57PM

    Those who are criticizing Jibran for not naming MQM should consider one fact for a minute:

    Even if we conclude that MQM is an existential threat to Pakistan, we cannot overlook the fact that this party is limited to Karachi/Hyderabad or maximum to boundaries of Sindh. And not in other three provinces.

    On the other hand, sectarian outfits and TTP are present in every corner of Pakistan and are now recognized as the single biggest threat to our beloved country, even bigger than India.

    In any case, right now, MQM is not a bigger existential threat to Pakistan compared to the violent extremism and sectarianism.

    So which threat he should confront first: Taliban or MQM???? Recommend

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