Light Within

Making sense of Social Media

Justice

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The Republic in which Plato presented concept of the state starts with a query. “What is justice,” sitting in his academy Plato asks students who were all experts in their own respective fields.

As per Plato every thing in the world should be given its appropriate place. Biologically human body can be divided in three distinct and incompatible parts. Wisdom comes from head; stomach is responsible for distribution of calories to the whole body through intakes; hands and feet work for the body and act as guards. Humans die when this appropriation is disturbed. Head cannot act in the place of stomach or hand and vice versa.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, April 30, 2021, ,

Hilal – publication where I started writing

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Pakistan Armed Forces Monthly Hilal is a very popular magazine read by every one from Jawan to General. My own association with this esteemed publication started in 1977 when I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and posted to an artillery regiment in Lahore. Our commanding office Lt Col Ghafoor was to open our tree plantation drive by planting a sapling in the unit ground. He desired the event be covered for Hilal. I was the ‘baby of the unit’ so I was asked to do the needful. That is when I asked about Hilal. Our unit head clerk gave me a complete file of previous issues of Hilal to read and familiarize myself with the then weekly magazine.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, April 29, 2021, ,

Historic Trilogy

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The first thought that came into my mind after visiting Okara can be described by four words: milk, butter, mammals and farms. Peers also told me the same. Besides Harappan ruins, I did not know the area. But one thing I did know, though, was that I should be happy to say goodbye to the place. Two years later, I felt drawn to the area and its people and it was very hard for me to part. There is so much to be seen, so much to be done. Above all, it has spirited, sincere and full-of-love people living in Gogera, Dipalpur and Pakpattan historic trilogy. The distances in the hinterland are short but the landscape is so enormous that it had to be studied in parts like a large mural seen by a child.


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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, April 28, 2021, ,

What it takes to be happy?

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In some way Ashiq Mang knows so much more about life that anybody else does, about grief, about happiness, about pretense and falseness of life. There is nothing in his own life, which he would like to hide or not talk about.

Ashiq has been working as a cleaner at our home for two years. My friendship with him developed when brought me laddoos on the birth of his son. It was a very pleasant surprise though later my wife and children hesitated to share the sweets with me. I offered him a cup of tea over which he started talking and gave me the chronological narrative of the life, experience and reminiscences. Then we used to talk whenever got chance to meet on holidays mostly, when he was late doing his job at our place or I came home early. He may not be a good communicator, but has definitely enriched my vision. He is so candid and honest about every thing.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 26, 2021, ,

Shalimar Garden

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It's easy to love a place where residents make efforts to feed the squirrels. In the Shalimar Garden, a few senior citizens party with the squirrels every morning.

When my friend Hussain Qazi who is naturalist and a photographer told me about people feeding birds and squirrels, I planned to skip my ‘ritual morning walks’ and decided to visit Shalimar Garden instead; hopping to find more about the party with the squirrels.

The care and feeding of squirrels in Shalimar Garden is a recent phenomenon. Long overshadowed by heritage talk (it is on UNESO’s world heritage list), Shalimar Garden is overcrowded during day. Whether or not Shalimar Garden ultimately can maintain its past glory - and with it, an influx of foreign and local tourists - it's a surprisingly satisfying open space during early hour of the day.

Every morning, two charismatic old men, loaded with biscuits, rice and pluses came to the waiting population of birds and squirrels in the Shalimar Garden. They sit on the same benches and start throwing grins to the birds. When this is happening, one can see squirrels coming down from nearby trees for their breakfast and then those gentlemen dig deep down their satchels and take out biscuits and start feeding the squirrels. The tiny winy animals are so use to those caring hands that they jump to take the first bite.

One of the old men Fazal Karim – a retired primary teacher who lives in nearby Daroge Wala – explained me this phenomenon and said, “I am coming here for my morning walk every day for a long time now. I feed the bird population and squirrels and find them very friendly. I miss them and look forward to meeting them every day. I think they miss me too.”

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, April 24, 2021, ,

At war with myself

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You seem to be doing odd thing all the time – sitting in sun and avoiding cold water during summers, sitting in shad and having chilled water in winters, keeping awake during nights, eating less and walking the streets despite having the facility of transport. Everyone else goes to gardens whereas you go for wilderness.

I am all right. Only I am at war with myself.

What for?

To conquer myself!

What will you achieve by this?

I will be able to get what I want done by myself – creation of a new world.

Translated from Sitaroon Ki Bastiyan by Abbas Khan

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, April 23, 2021, ,

Virtual Communities

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Virtual world is seamlessly getting into real world. Social side of technologies is making the World Wide Web much more localized by bringing like-minded people together and in the process creating closely knit online communities.

Combination of features like worldwide accessibility and instantaneous communication has made it possible for backpackers, globetrotters and other curious from all over the world to join together at different online platforms to exchange information, experiences and plans in their favorite pursuit; travel.

Subscribers range from the professional travel writers to hardcore travelers and adventurers and commoners who are simply interested in reading online. Travel communities are accessible by millions of interested people all over the world.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, April 22, 2021, ,

Dolls, Toys and More

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How have the topics been selected?

Dolls, Toys and More is a story of two decades of work by NGO in a village called Thatta Ghulamka Dheroka. How change has come in the village?


Large number of volunteers have worked in the project since its inception. It would have been less interesting for the readers, if we were only to describe project in detail as they would know less about the location, the background and the history of the local toys in the Punjab. The life in the village is definitely interesting from the point of view of literature, but this topic may be discussed separately. An idea can be obtained however by reading the three short stories taken over by me and written by Ulrike Vestring. It would also be inappropriate to discuss and describe at this point the concept of Mud Housing and the Appropriate Technology, both of which can be discussed separately.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, April 20, 2021, ,

Children are never satisfied

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Sheik Manzoor Ilahi was commissioner Bahawalpur when Nawab of Bahawalpur was alive and Nawab of Kalabagh was the Governor.

Sheik Manzoor Ilahi writes: I was going to attend Commissioners’ Conference in Lahore when the Nawab of Bahawalpur sent for me and asked to convey to the Governor that the agricultural reforms should not be imposed upon Abbasi family in his life because he knows better how to look after the interests of his protegee  I got the chance to approach the Governor in a dinner hoisted by him at the end of the conference. Nawab of Kalabagh was sitting sandwiched between American Council General and the British Deputy High Commissioner when I overheard the Governor telling them, “I have told Mr. President so many times that no kind of democracy is feasible in this country.”

Ahan, so the Governor was opposed to the democracy which President Ayub Khan was about to give to the masses through 1962 constitution. When I gave him the message of the Nawab of Bahawalpur, the Governor spontaneously said, “Please tell Nawab Sahib to leave the issue alone. Children are never thankful what ever the parents do for them.” 

I was surprised.

Now one knows what destiny has in store for any one. Nature was speaking through the mouth of the Governor it seems (The Governor was murdered by his son.)

Extract from Light Within by Abbas Khan

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 19, 2021, ,

The Apricot Road to Yarkand

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Is there anything more beguiling than a true tale of high adventure well told? Stories about places like Pakistan and China sides of Muztang Pass, braving difficult odds under overwhelming conditions in far flung locales, relating to people of Pakistan and Chinese Turkistan who had been in the area centuries ago, can keep anyone glued to The Apricot Road to Yarkand by Salman Rashid.

The Apricot Road to Yarkand is a spellbinding tale of journey from Shigar Valley to Yarkand in the North, over the glaciated Muztagh Pass by Salman Rashid. The author is master of conveying what seems to be going on in his heads in gripping prose that is never clichéd.

First, a word about the author. Salman Salman is Pakistan's foremost travel writer. His passion for writing is matched by his passion for photography. His research, range of visual subjects and narratives make a remarkable and powerful combination. In addition to eight travel books, his work appears in leading English language journals. In The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Salman Rashid has also told how he switched his career in the army to become a full time researcher and a writer. (I keep thinking how Salman Rashid would have been in 'appreciation of tactical situations' on battle grounds if he was still in army?)


Salman Rashid is a historian in the truest sense. He writes from a knowledge standpoint as opposed to a position biased toward the dominant paradigm and its conquests. A moving writer, Salman reminds the heart of its search for power in a world which has forgotten its purpose for existence. As usual, Salman Rashid, 54 when he undertook the journey, delivers a ton of current information all based on historical research. No one else seems to have half the energy of this man. What is more, Salman Rashid is currently translating the book into Urdu language.

In The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Salman Rashid recounts his journey from Shigar Valley to Yarkand and he does so in frank and honest terms. Result of sixteen years of dreaming about everything that sits on the historic route from Baltistan to Yarkand, The Apricot Road to Yarkand is an epic to the essence of exploring mighty
mountains, but it is also about of the cultural, geological, and biological make up of mountains, people of that area, human behavior in difficult situations, and history; and about joy of  watching purple-gray clouds spreading out like an atmospheric ocean in all directions as far as the eye can see.

Alan Hovaness once wrote, "Mountains are symbols of mankind's search for God," and Allen Ginsberg told us, "Things are symbols for themselves." In The Apricot Road to Yarkand, Salman Rashid allows the mountains to be symbols of the seeking soul and at the same time symbols of themselves - they are encountered as we internalize them in our quest, and they are encountered as they really are: cold, hard, lonely, mighty and sometime hazardous.


The Apricot Road to Yarkand inspires its readers to explore the less explored areas and experience for themselves what only a few had the fortune to discover. Well-written and wonderfully presented, the book is a must read for anyone remotely interested in mountains, adventures or for those who want to find out why a chunk of land was handed over to our best friends. I highly recommend it.

Fellow of Royal Geographical Society, Salman Rashid is author of twelve books.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, April 17, 2021, ,

This may happen anywhere

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Mukhtar Masood, author of Awaz-e-Dost, Safar Naseeb, and Loh-e-Ayyam, writes that north western part of Persia was called Media and it comprised of small regions in 350 B.C. Keqabad was ruler in one of the constituencies. He was famous for his fairness so much so that people from other districts used to bring their feuds to him. He used to hear the cases and decide notwithstanding where the parties belonged.

With time justice seekers from other counties grew and it had to be announced that only those cases will be decided in which parties involved were from areas directly under his command. Masses were so fed up from their own rulers that they declared Keqabad as a king of entire Media.

If the rulers are incapable of delivering justice, populace can choose new. The countries where justice is not mated out, natives may merge it with another.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, April 16, 2021, ,

Attitude Tourism

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Attitude tourism - to be distinguished from, say, adventure or seeing the sights - is generally not a particularly satisfying activity. Ideas and those who hatch them tend not to leave behind things large or attractive enough to ogle. So you may go to a place of great historic value but find nothing worth the visit. Lasbela tract is a case in point. Usually, you are left, if you are lucky, with a plaque or just an intrinsic thought. So I expected, more or less, nothing in Lasbela.

What I got was signs in lieu of plaques, hot wind, remnants of crumbling columns, and a long view of the undergrowth of thorny bushes, some wildflowers, functional Persian wells and rocky hilltops covered with camel and sheep droppings. It was all prosaic and quiet and yet real enough to propel me into another fit of wonder: I was driving on the tract where Alexander and Muhammad Bin Qasim had treaded.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, April 15, 2021, ,

Invention of calligraphy script

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To understand the magnitude of the invention of a new calligraphy script it is important to remember that after creation of ‘Nastaleeq’ by Mir Ali Sultan Tabreezi around 1400 in Persia, no script of Urdu, Persian or Arabic, has ever been invented, with the exception of Mirza Muhammad Hussain who developed the running the running hand version of Nastaleeq called Shakistan in 1616 and Mirza Sultan in Heart who came up with a similar style called Shaffiah in the middle of the seventeenth century. Ibn-e-Kaleem stands alone in the feat.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, April 14, 2021, ,

Growth as a criteria

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Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch, SES, SPARC, FPAC

Is a future with further growth thinkable, plausible, imaginable,- or is it better to restrain oneself , and if yes, at the cost of whom would this happen.

So are approximately the widely-separated opinions about the future.

It is of course good and important to contemplate about the future. But this is quite difficult because there is no space available for understanding of realities. Clearly, the production of academic talent is industrial friendly and growth oriented. The parents desire a rosy future for their children. The magic word Education, as basis for a secured future, appears to be all popular for solution of all current and future problems. If everyone thinks and does in the similar way, it is of course positive, but it indicates how obscure time is. One almost feels like living in middle ages, about which it is claimed that religion replaced thinking at that time. If one could go into the time gone by, one would realize, that life then was quite normal. Analog to the present time is therefore valid: Education is the solution to all problems!
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, April 13, 2021, ,

Malka Hans

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Punjab is a gold mine for history seekers and curious travelers. You may find much more than what you hear or read. It pays to get out into the countryside and talk to ordinary people. What is more, people of the area are eager to help – on their own expense - when you ask anybody. One finds volunteer 'guides' who were forth coming with wealth of information. The distances in the hinterland are short but the landscape is so enormous that it had to be studied in parts like a large mural seen by a child.


Given the history and heritage, it is easy to fall in love with ‘out of the way’ town like Malka Hans. Once an abode of Waris Shah, who stayed here and composed universal romance Heer Ranjha, malka hans is still serene, tranquil and pollution free. Legend has it that Malik Muhammad (alia Malka) who was a member of Hans tribe founded the town some 700 years ago. Hans became powerful when Mughal King Alamgir conferred a vast land around Malka Hans on Sheikh Qutab Hans. In 1764, Muhammad Azam who was the descendant of Qutab Hans became head of the clan. Ran Singh Nakka treacherously took Muhammad Azam prisoner where he died in confinement.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 12, 2021, ,

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"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends" - Dr Martin Luther King Jr

posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, April 10, 2021, ,

Gogera Sadar

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Situated on the bank of river Ravi on Okara Faisalabad Road, Gogera (Sadar) was once an important and dignified town in the plans of Central Punjab. It is reduced to a shabby and sleepy suburb of Okara today. Town still boasts its importance when it was British power centre and district headquarters from 1852 to 1865 and the part played by the resilient people of the area during War of Independence in 1857. The stories of the war that was fought around Gogera echo in the pages of history books.


The only historic building — a British court — that reminds of the colonial period has been converted into a school. The verandas of the old building with round arches have been clogged to create additional rooms and red thin bricks are covered with coats of whitewash. It was much better if the building could have been conserved in its original shape. That does not seem possible now.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, April 09, 2021, ,

Bloggy fusion

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Thursday, April 08, 2021, ,

Let the truth be told

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Philosophy helps us to understand how varying points of view about eternal truths, if there are any, are presented and psychology to know how philosophers come up with those points of view. Widely contradicting philosophies, what one sees happening in life all around and annoying discussions with his friend Mansoor Qureshi put Abbas Khan on a path to discover what is truth? 

Famous name in Urdu fiction (short story) Abbas Khan has written 13 novels and short story books (Zakham Gawah Hain, Tu Aur Tu and Mein Aur Umrao Jan Ada (novels), Dharti Binam Akash, Tensikh-e-Insan, Qalam, Kursi Aur Wardi, U’s Adalat Men, Jism Ka Johar (short story books) and Reza Reza Keenat and Pal Pal (afsancha -- shortest story books) but this time he presenting his finding not in fiction but in hard truths.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Wednesday, April 07, 2021, ,

Fine Art of Mud Architecture

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The future lies in mud architecture. Though this sweeping statement may sound prehistoric, but it is very relevant to modern times. Building living spaces with mud is a tradition dating as back as the start of civilization. Some excellent examples from the Great Mosque - the world’s largest mud building and UNESCO’s World Heritage site – to the oldest surviving mud specimens found in the Harappa, Pakistan, show the continuous use of mud buildings.


Having grown up in mud house myself (before I moved to urban center), mud buildings have a special place rooted deep in to my cultural consciousness and this personal bond encourages a more intimate relationship between me and the mud as the material transformed from formlessness to form. Hence my interest in mud architecture and how I see its future in Pakistan.

Why use Mud? Mud – a mixture of earth and water - is economical, practical, functional and attractive. It is easy to work with, and it takes decoration well. Mud is especially useful in humid and hot climates like we have in Pakistan. Mud is a natural material that is found in abundance, especially where other building materials such as bricks, stone or wood are scarce due to affordability and or availability. In Pakistan, use of mud has evolved from local necessity. Which is why the use of extremely sticky mud deposited found along river banks or elsewhere in Pakistan combined with appropriate technology makes an excellent material to build functional and climate friendly buildings.


Work has already started and many experts are critically analyzing the more purposeful use of mud as a building material. Dr. Gus Van Beek of the Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History is working on a book in which he is examining methods of construction and varieties of designs in contemporary as well as ancient structures found at many places. Dr. Gus Van Beek’s research started when he uncovered arch and vault construction at Tel Jemmeh, Israel. Dr. Gus Van Beek is covering major types of construction in Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran, India and Pakistan.

At local level, Society for the Promotion of Art and Culture (SPARC), registered in Lahore since 1994, is undertaking the task of revival of much needed mud architecture in Pakistan. SPARC planning to hold workshops at different art and architecture institutions in order to restart the traditional building with mud in rural as well as urban areas of Pakistan. These workshop will not only create awareness and initiate a thought process at gross roots level but will also train SPARC employees in mud architecture. Dr. Norbert Pintsch from Senior Expert Service (Bonn, Germany) is planning to present new techniques of mud building to adapt the construction technique mixed with appropriate technology in Pakistan.

Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch is an experienced architect by profession and mud enthusiast by choice. Since completing first building project as an architect at the age of 18, Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch has been in various activities as an architect and civil engineer all his life. One of the best starting point for Prof Dr Norbert Pintsch may be a mud building that stands in Peerzada Festival Area, Green Acre, Lahore. Renowned Pakistani architect like Ghayyoor Obaid are also keen on mud architecture there. Any other example that I know of is remains of Sher Shah Suri built mud fort in historic village Sher Ghar near Okara.

The mud architecture is a great resource that focuses on architecture constructed of mud brick, rammed earth, compressed earth block and other methods of earthen construction. The proliferation of concept to use mud and improved techniques in order to raise the level of living in the population is a very welcome idea and we in Pakistan need that. This can go a long way not only in the form of changing the look of population centers, rural as well as urban, but also in solving environmental problems and problems related to use of energy and other finite resources.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Tuesday, April 06, 2021, ,

Where I Get My Supply of Salageet - Shilajit?

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Some places are so peaceful and unspoiled that it is almost unbelievable. One such locality is the picturesque, tranquil and pollution free (and undeveloped) boarder village Arrandu in district Chitral. The very sound of the name is musical. This village is located 'on' the Pakistan Afghanistan boarder. Dir-Chitral Road bifurcates near village Mir Khanni and a jeep able track along Kunar River leads to Arrandu through Domail Nisar and onwards into Afghanistan.


Gateway to the South Asia, the Chitral valley has been center of activity since ancient times. Macedonians advanced through this region in fourth century. In 1338, Timur subdued the area on his way to the plains of Punjab. Mughal King Akbar garrisoned here in 1587 and the British in 1897 in Chakdara on Dir side of Lowari Pass. Among soldiers who served here in Chakdara then was young Winston Churchill who later became Prime Minister of Britain. So far about the past importance of the valley but the little hamlet got the international fame during Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. It remained in the news and was commonly called as 'BBC Baby'.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Monday, April 05, 2021, ,

Every thing is in the name

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Pervaiz Munir Alvi

The way a society names its cities and places says a lot about its cultural history and social values. Pakistan is no exception to this either.

The cultural history of Pakistan could be traced from its naming practice. The names of its ancient cities like Peshawar, Lahore and Multan have no resemblance to the names of the newer cities like Islamabad and Faisalabad. Similarly the name of the newer Qasim Port has no resemblance to the name of its sister Karachi Port or for that matter Gwadar Port. In the field of naming names Pakistani society has come a long way since the days of ancient Indus Valley Civilization of Harrapa and Moen-jo-Dero. Even the days of the names like Texila and Ghandara are long gone.
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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Saturday, April 03, 2021, ,

Battle within

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There are no chances of this horrible battle coming to an end.
UN will sure manage to end this.
No, no. I am not talking of war that has been imposed upon us.
Which battle are you talking about?
The one waging within!

Translated from Sitaroon Ki Bastiyan by Abbas Khan.

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posted by S A J Shirazi @ Friday, April 02, 2021, ,


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