Meet Mohammad Jibran Nasir.
Jibran Nasir is not someone who needs to be introduced. A lawyer by profession, Jibran’s hands-on activism has made him a household name. He dabbled into political activism by contesting the 2013 elections as an independent candidate. Over the past couple of years, he has made himself known through his unabashed vocality on social issues.
Being an activist and rallying for social change is a tall order in a country like Pakistan. However, we have men like Jibran continuing to do so, despite the odds. When asked about what activism means to him, Jibran had the following to say:
“These days, in Pakistan, people qualify as activists only for expressing their opinion in a tweet. I don’t know if this is so because people don’t know what activism really, or because simply voicing your opinion on certain topics could endanger your life. For me, activism has to be rooted in an ideology which should make one take a principled position every time.”
“Unfortunately, for a vast majority, their ideology appears to be driven solely either by their ethnicity, religious persuasions, political affiliations or gender. That eventually blurs the line between biases and principles. The benefit of such activism is that you will always have constant support from people who suffer from the same bias. I do my best to see things through the lens of our constitution and basic concepts of rule of law. Perhaps that is why my work has questioned sensitives of different groups – at times, even my own friends.”
Jibran further drives home his point with this impactful statement:
“As an activist, you cannot be afraid to be hated. Your job is to work for awareness, not appeasement.”
Often, Jibran is seen to come under fire for his bold, outspoken attitude and his drive to stand up for the injustices in our society. However, nothing is seen to have the power to hold him back.
“What challenges me,” Jibran states, “is the notion that ‘No! You cannot raise your voice on this issue.’ I automatically reject fear and any compromise of living under fear. I am given a new tag with every cause. I am called an Ahmadi when advocating for Ahmadi rights, a Shia when protesting against Shia genocide, a traitor when condemning State policies viz a viz the Baloch, and an apostate when questioning the religious establishment.”
However, he remains undeterred and powers on.
Being a middle-class Muslim male, Jibran acknowledges his privilege. However, his activism stems from a process of learning, understanding and empathizing.
“I have never lost a family member to a terror attack,” says Jibran. “Nor do I have people from different sects within my family. I come from a traditional conservative household. Perhaps I myself advocated half the injustices ten years ago which I condemn today. My journey has been one of learning, understanding, self-awareness and overcoming self-denial. I stepped out of my comfort zone to interact with people whom I never understood before.”
“Before taking the stands I take today on issues, I had to question my own core value system – be it related to religion, sects, women rights or nationalism. It helps me empathize with those who are my worst critics because I have walked in those shoes before. The same also reminds me the need to carry on this work. I can only be thankful to all those teachers, friends and colleagues who have been patient with me and were kind enough to invest time in me and guide me through this journey to be who I am today.”
Jibran ventures forth to talk about issues that are usually swept under the carpet in our society. This stems from his belief that all sorts of injustices must be condemned.
“I comment and speak on most things,” Jibran states, “but causes which inspire me the most are those which are generally accepted as “no-go areas” in Pakistan. If someone in my position who benefits from privilege is expected to stay silent, then just imagine the suppression and suffocation of those who already suffer from prejudice by default just because of their class, ethnicity, gender or religion.”
“I believe that after every attack designed to silence society, we as a community should become louder and bolder instead. I suffer from many threats because of my work. However, I carry no security at all and have done so deliberately so that others can relate to me and my circumstances and perhaps be encouraged to speak up as well.”
When asked about how he perceives an ideal Pakistan to be like, Jibran had the following to say:
“Our parents give us birth, but I believe our life starts with the first drop of a Polio vaccine. And we begin to end our journey when we start drawing our pension. Be it the polio drop, the pension or things between them – like our language, culture, identity, friends, morality, interpersonal skills, the parks we played in, the roads on which we learnt how to walk or the school we went to – all of that isn’t just provided by our parents, but our society as a whole. In reality, society as a whole takes part in your upbringing or parwarish.”
“Aur jo parwarish karta hai woh aap ka khandaan hai. Khandaan walon say lartay nahi hain. Unhain maartay nahi hain. Chahain jitni bhi ghalat fehmian, nafratain ya ghussa ho, khandaan aakhir khandaan hai.”
Jibran also had a message he wanted to convey to all those who wish to rally for social change:
“Education and awareness do not only empower you but also make you responsible towards the rest of the society. Share and advocate the good things you have learnt. You don’t need to stand out on the streets on day one. Start the conversation with your family first. Learn to respect opposing views and ideologies, as long as they don’t incite one for violence.”
“Question the premise of a counter-argument, not the integrity of the person making that argument. Do not suffer from the notion that you know it all. Be humble enough to realize that life is a learning process every day and feel free to seek guidance from those around you despite your stature or surrounding. Wisdom is essentially with the learned, not necessarily with the popular.”
We thank Jibran Nasir for sharing his valuable insight with us. Here’s hoping he continues to be a symbol of hope for all those who wish to see a better tomorrow.
What is your take on this? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Cover image image via brecorder.com