By Abhishek Jha:
Made in memory of Sabeen Mahmud, a Pakistani activist who was killed by gunmen last month, Reclaiming Pakistan is a short documentary by Pakistani actress Fawzia Mirza. At its centre is Mohammad Jibran Nasir, a 28-year-old civil rights activist and blogger. Trained to be a lawyer, he writes regularly on the Tribune and has come more than often in the line of fire due to his activism.
Pakistan is often fraught with danger. That few people have dared to come together to stand for themselves and their neighbours has meant that terror has come knocking at their doors. Introducing people to the inextricable link between religion and politics, the documentary reminds the viewers of the December 16 Peshawar attack in which 132 children were killed in a massacre by terrorists. Jibran knows that even such a horrifying attack will not have people standing up for the fear of meeting the same fate. So he decides to lead by example. He challenges Maulana Abdulaziz, the imam of Islamabad’s Laal Masjid, who refused to condemn the attacks. People appear in larger numbers than ever to protest against religious extremism and demand the arrest of imam.
But in Pakistan, as everywhere, standing up to powerful people has consequences. Jibran, who is also the co-founder of an advocacy group Pakistan for All, lives constantly in fear of his life. Challenging Abdulaziz has already cost him the life of his friend Sabeen Mahmud. But though only 28-years-old, Abdulaziz is ready to risk it all. Agreeing himself that his initiative is sort of “socialist by circumstance”, what he fears more is the toll his credibility might take if he attacks those that are revered (even though out of fear). Led by journalists, businessmen, and mostly economically privileged people (or so one gathers from the documentary), it is yet to be seen whether he can take the fight to every street. For there is quite a bit of hate-mongering against him and he has been accused, among other things, of “undertaking the cause for attention and popularity“. To work among the general public, he must not do what he preaches against- pontificate. Nevertheless, Pakistan has found a voice that it must preserve.