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“Did you listen that on TV? Lal Masjid fanatics set the Ministry of Environment office on fire.” This was father telling me on the phone from office. “So sad, such a beautiful building that was! I had the presentiment that something like that would happen. After all, they are so enraged now.” I replied. “And you know what! Rafia, your printed books were lying in that office. I am so sad about them”. “What…! Father”. “Be brave, my child”, father’s voice seemed coming from a long distance… or at least I felt so.
I felt he was tired, dead tired and me, once more all worn-out and drained. Quite unconsciously my eyes became wet and hands began to tremble as all those moments started recurring to me in battalions when I devotedly dreamt and struggled for making it big on awareness front.
It was in 2003 when my maiden attempt at developing eco-awareness material for children fetched 3rd prize on National level. Encouraged but not satisfied, I contacted the Ministry of Environment office in Islamabad, asking them to consider printing the booklet under their aegis, as my dream was not to win self-interested success but to bring about a far-reaching change. After almost a year of countless telephone calls and numerous letters, the Ministry, unmoved by my talent and passion, informed that it encourages me to do more but the booklet is not something the Ministry intends to associate its name with. Undiscouraged by the flat refusal, I approached Pakistan Science Foundation for their kind consideration in the matter that after much research and amendments in the booklet granted Rs. 15,000/- as a monetary assistance for its self-sponsored publication.
Continued hard work and unwavering spirits finally made it to a limited self-publication of “ABC Of Environment”, winning heartening responses from students community and garnering laudatory reviews from all top-notch magazine. In-between, I kept constantly in-touch with Ministry’s office that was undergoing a lot of changes and re-shuffling in the name of restructuring. Meanwhile, my educational institute nominated me for the Presidential Award “Aizaz-E-Sabqat” on the basis of my innovative environmental activities. Hard work bore fruit. I was granted the laurel and hoping against the hope, I dropped the newspaper clipping at the Ministry’s office.
That last try became the much-anticipated breakthrough. The telephone started ringing; “Secretary Sahib had solicited the booklet’s manuscript” I was informed. Every step got accelerated; the manuscript was perused, amended and approved in a go. I was deeply delighted. After all, the dream was about to achieve its translation. The booklet appeared in print under the Ministry’s aegis and sponsorship, finally. “We appreciate your continued efforts. The Federal Minister would inaugurate your booklet in Islamabad soon. After that, it would be distributed for free in all the schools of Pakistan”, an officer apprised. But that “soon” turned into a long wait until the office itself was set on fire.
I was collapsed. I never failed in any educational exam of my life. But for the first time, I experienced how it felt like, being totally flunked after burning the midnight oil. And for the first time, I realized how it felt like being burnt alive by the flames of extremism. Lal Masjid episode hit me to the core. I did not lose my loved-ones in the tragedy nor was I personally injured. Only a dream that I nurtured for the past 4 years was dashed to the ground, perhaps forever.
This once again makes me wonder how a single episode of extremism changes the face of things for many. Some lose life, some love and some all, only because some forget the lesson of tolerance for some moments in exercising so-called vengeances. Life is a small precious treasure; let’s promise never to be thankless towards it. Let’s live it the unforgettable way, the way of love, kindness, sympathy, forgiveness and tolerance. Let every eye see the translation of its dream and every heart beat its own beat. Let’s breathe every breath the humane way, the way the God told and His Prophet acted. Let peace prevail and extremism depart from our lives, cities and countries forever. Let’s promise, let’s pledge!
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