Hoping for peace: Call of a dreamer from the Valley of Love

Mustafa Gulzari, a 20-year-old photographer captures nature and the pitfalls of human nature through his camera lens


The world through the lens of 20-year-old Mustafa Gulzari is full of discrimination and suffering, but he chooses to highlight the beauty of Pakistan and its wildlife. PHOTOS: MUSTAFA GULZARI

KARACHI:


"People of Mariabad live within the confines of four check posts. Security forces tell us that this is for our own safety. What sort of safety is it that stops us from going outside our own homes?" says 20-year-old Mustafa Gulzari, a passionate wildlife photographer from the Valley of Love in Mariabad, Quetta.




Gulzari won the best art of photography award in a film festival organised by the Institute for Development Studies and Practices in Karachi. Apart from his work on wildlife in Mariabad, he has captured the traumatised lives of the people of Hazara where daily targeted killings and burials of loved ones have become a norm.

Gulzari passionately presented the dilemma of his identity as a Pakistani. "Once you get to the top of the hill at Alamdar Road, you can only see the flags of Pakistan. If we are not Pakistanis then how did our men like Sher-e-Panjshir, Sharbat Ali Changezi, lose their lives in the 1965 and 1971 wars?" he asks.



The world through the lens of 20-year-old Mustafa Gulzari is full of discrimination and suffering, but he chooses to highlight the beauty of Pakistan and its wildlife. PHOTOS: MUSTAFA GULZARI



He says there is an air of despair in Mariabad, especially among the youth, when they should be out pursuing their dreams. "There is a lot of talent for photography and painting in Quetta," he said. "My own brother does not want to study, as he says that even if he goes out to study he may be shot dead, or not given a job. What's the use then?" he says. Gulzari says that the current generation of Mariabad, the young and the soon-to-be teenagers are missing out on so much as they have not seen the world beyond the check posts. "These kids are happy because for them the world is Mariabad. They have not seen beyond it and there is no guarantee that they will return alive [if they do]," he added.

For the people of Hazara, the discrimination and seclusion does not end in Quetta. For Gulzari and his group of Hazara friends coming to an urban centre like Karachi was nothing short of a nightmare. Trying to give a reason as to why things are this way for Hazaras, he grew quiet and said, "They don't like this face," gesturing towards his own face. "People stop us and ask if we are Chinese or Hazara. If we say we are Chinese, they treat us with respect and if we say Hazara they start to question us about Ashura and our beliefs. What are we, some wild animals from a jungle?" he said. "People who haven't visited Mariabad just shouldn't talk about it if they don't have anything good to say," he said angrily.



The world through the lens of 20-year-old Mustafa Gulzari is full of discrimination and suffering, but he chooses to highlight the beauty of Pakistan and its wildlife. PHOTOS: MUSTAFA GULZARI



Among Gulzaris personal photography collections are gut wrenching moments from funerals of his friends and family members. He shared an instance from the protest that took place after the Mastung blast. "I lost one of my closest friends, Noyan Batoor. His mother was holding the picture of her husband while his brother held on to the picture of Noyan Batoor. I couldn't do anything but sit with them and weep," he shared. Gulzari also spoke about another friend of his, Basit Ali, an activist who was working to reconcile the Baloch and Pashtun communities through his photography and lost his life in a blast at Alamdar Road. "He was a photographer who became a photo for his people," said Gulzari, while showing a picture of his friend's 'lost smile'.



The world through the lens of 20-year-old Mustafa Gulzari is full of discrimination and suffering, but he chooses to highlight the beauty of Pakistan and its wildlife. PHOTOS: MUSTAFA GULZARI



Gulzari's future goals are pretty simple. He wants to travel Pakistan and capture wildlife through his lens, but these far-fetched yet tangible dreams come at a price. "If I leave my area, they won't leave me alone," he says.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2015. 

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COMMENTS (3)

Irfan | 5 years ago | Reply @Layman he is talking about the discrimination against Hazara people in Quetta not Karachi..
Sal | 5 years ago | Reply Well there is no question the hazard community is being targeted. But should all the check post be removed? Will that not cause even more tragedies? And as far as discrimination is concerned I.e. Hazard or Chinese. Don't you think it's a nation wide problem? I mean a westerner will be respected more in any part of the country and we will treat our own people as crap? We as a nation needs to change our attitude about this. And I pray he gets to complete all his dreams. You are an inspiring man.
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