Muniba and I are not friends – Tanzila Khan

And we don’t have to be to stand up or represent a cause together. Just like not all Asian Taxi drivers in UK are cousins. Muniba and I may have a common factor and guess what? We share that with your grandparents too. In fact it would be safer to hangout and travel with your Nano than you. Because Hot-wheels. Duh!

You would see many people with disabilities break a long list of barriers beginning with their own disabled mindset and come out stronger. We suffer in silence and no amount of discount at Marks and Spencer can compensate for that. While we dream of acceptance, the society rides in like a prince on a horse to rescue us and takes us miles away from normalcy and places us on the stage where the eyes of the world expect us to smile, wave and utter words of wisdom. As we look backstage towards our friends and peers and shyly whisper, ‘But I just want to eat a Paratha at the roadside?’.

‘You ungrateful witch!’, roars the audience and brings our attention back. And even when we do take the opportunity and do what we can, the world refuses to acknowledge our individualities and put us all in the same box. For some odd reason every disabled person in Pakistan is validated until they have given a ‘Motivational’ speech and the sadder the better. The sick sellout mentality is creating a competition for ‘who has a more tragic disability?’. There is more. Every disabled person is somehow expected to become an ‘Activist’ or they would be banned from the ‘Movement’. Don’t get me wrong. Advocating for human rights is great but is that it? Can’t a disabled person move into other spaces and create their own Niche. What about being a Lawyer, a doctor or a carpenter? Or even simpler acts like visiting the zoo, wearing lipsticks, cooking or just visiting the local library. As simple as they all may sound but they are all acts of conscious activism. They are statements in their own way. They are Flags indicating ‘Don’t just expect us to motivate you or just protest, we are here to stay and live’.

I applaud Muniba for occupying the Art space, the media space, the anchor space, the music space and getting a safe entry into the Green room where all the A-listers are. Its all about sitting on the table. There is a thing called soft power and it’s all about penetrating into spaces through the sub conscious mind and she managed to do that.

Sadly some people in Pakistan only register contribution if their own name is written on it. But for intellectuals and people who have a helicopter view see it as more than just existence. Your presence in a place at a certain time is a statement it its own way even if you don’t post about it on social media. I wish people of my country learn to use soft power to advocate for their causes and not just rely on Harsh verbal exchanges, protesting, finger pointing and Dharnas.

My heart sinks when I hear a disabled girl as young as 10 years old saying, ‘Ill grow up to be a Motivational Speaker’. I wish I could tell her that it pays nothing and in fact makes you more vulnerable by bringing you to the surface with fame and once the talk is over, you don’t know how you will survive now. Limelight steals your normalcy and you spend all your life trying to get a grip on it.

Muniba and I are not friends. We are sisters. Sisters in pain. She doesn’t have to hold a banner with my name on it but the thread of disability holds us both and countless others across Pakistan. Many have the eyes to see Muniba as just a glamorous figure in media but very few have the vision to see a young disabled woman conquering the cutthroat world of media and corporate.


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