It is the hardest thing to say because the things that we hold dear to us means the world to us. However, in order to move and survive we have to take some tough decisions. Even though we don’t like them. It is just like a doctor operating a patient to save it’s life.
At Daastan, we are facing somewhat a similar situation. Standing at the crossroads, we have to choose. Five years was such a blissful journey where we worked with our brilliant A-team and authors all across the world. We co-created solutions, put out fires and worked tirelessly for one cause i.e. enable authors to publish their books free of cost.
Reasons for good bye
We hired the best of the best, the rarest of talents in terms of design and content to ensure that authors can learn and make the most out of this opportunity. We spent all our savings to facilitate authors and team. You won’t believe it but Daastan almost generated and injected 100,000 USD in the local economy, in past five years of its operations.
We know that you are wondering that why a good bye. Is Daastan closing its operations? Before we answer that, we want to highlight one more thing that we marketed our authors and team not on local level but also on international forums and exhibitions on our cost because we believed that as a platform, it is our duty to do that. It would help people in excelling in their careers.
However, what hurt us was that much of the people took us for granted, abused the services, lied and fought with us. Our team spent countless hours facilitating them day and night. We issued refunds, regardless of the fact that whose mistake it was. We wanted to help.
In fact, we still do and forever will.
Life After Good byes
In light of these challenges, we have now decided to say good bye to the ones who do not consider Daastan as their future, be it authors or team. It is okay because everyone has right to choose for themselves and we respect that. We live, breathe and walk literature in our everyday’s life. We will be spending our energies, time and resources on those who share the same vision and passion.
Internally, we have restructured and formalized the work processes. We have said good byes to some of the most fantastic team members because the visions weren’t aligning further. Though they left but we will forever be good friends and partner-in-literary-crimes. We will still be meeting over a cup of tea and sharing the laughs. Life moves on!
We are no longer a startup, rather evolved into a for-profit social enterprise. We know most of the people would argue that making money and doing social work can not go hand-in-hand. We are here to prove that it can. We will make enough money so we can invest back in the community and improve lives. The old mindset needs to go. Youth is coming to take charge. New rules are being forged. Publishing in Pakistan will never be the same again!
Future of readers?
The readers can still read the published content, order books and leave reviews on our publishing platform, Qissa. The platform was and forever will be free for readers.
Future of authors?
Daastan will no longer provide services free of cost. We are introducing an annual membership where we will work with people who are passionate and crazy enough to invest on their selves.
It is such a wrong tradition that publishers would just print the titles and hand them over to authors. Same is the case online where tech portals, newspapers and magazines would take free content, make money through it and author suffers. We are saying good bye to this tradition and challenging ourselves to market authors who join our membership program.
What makes our platform unique is that author can see the performance of their content. Ask yourself that would you prefer to dump your books in a bookstore who take insane margins, provides no guarantee and gives no proper report of sales or would you prefer an online portal where you can see the readership, monitor your sales and draw your earnings whenever you want?
We believe in transparency and accountability and we use technology to improve efficiency, kill useless paperwork and unwanted bureaucracy. Good bye to old traditions. The future of publishing is Daastan! The opportunity is knocking at your door, will you avail it?
P.S. We are not closing the company. Just re-formed the team and upgraded the way we work i.e. introduced annual memberships.
If you’re anything like us and are obsessed with Pakistani literature, you have heard of the latest controversial buzz in the literary community. We’re calling it the “Moon Controversy” because of the similar use of the word “moon” in two book titles– Noor Unnahar’s ‘yesterday I was the moon” and Khizra Zaheer’s “the moon has my heart“. In this case, the author of “the moon has my heart” has been accused of stealing concepts and content from Unnahar.
In the past week, things have unfolded with quite a twist: the publishers of said plagiarized book have issued an official statement; Unnahar has talked about the scandal on both her Instagram and her Facebook; and now Khizra Zaheer, the author of the book said to be plagiarized, has come forward with what she has to say about it all.
While writing a comprehensive article on just how such an event came to be, Daastan reached out to Ms. Khizra Zaheer to ask how she would like to address the situation. She responded with a detailed explanation.
Khizra Zaheer’s Official Statement
“First of all my new book (the moon has my heart) is crafted with all the hard work, time and efforts including cover that is neither plagiarized, copied, burgled, robbed or theft by any other book. In the past two days, the issues that were raised for my newly launched book cover (the moon has my heart) were totally baseless and senseless.
The author of the book (Yesterday I was the moon) instead of contacting directly with me or my publisher regarding her concerns, she preferred to post about her concern/issue directly on the social media platforms. And being the influencer she had used all the platforms to put false claims of plagiarism and allegations on me and Auraq Publications without having any evidence of it. These postings at her social media accounts and all other social groups had brought me a lot of damage and defame to me with abusing and this intensely had hurt my credibility that I have earned professional field in both local and international industry in over ten years. Seriously it takes a lot of years to create credibility and people demolish it within a fraction of seconds even without proofs. Though Auraq Publications have offered her to have a copy of my book (the moon has my heart) for proper understanding of the book but she denied to have it.
Through your platform [Daastan], I want to say that if you really want to see the truth and factual based stuff then do check out the images and link attached at Facebook and Instagram pages of Auraq Publications or at my Instagram handle @khizra.zaheer.
The analysis of both books are keenly and carefully tested and analyzed by renowned industry experts and NCA professional designers. It’s my humble request to you all for future that without seeing the real image and verification don’t put your words in everyone’s mouth else it will bring lots of damage. People abused, accused and alleged me for the whole senseless dramatic story.
Also just to clear, the MOON is universal object and can be used by anyone while the concept of both book titles are totally different (the moon that is a part of yesterday with the cut of lines, yesterday I was the moon while my new book concept is revolving around the moon that has my heart).
The attached images and all stuff under the link of Our official pages will give a real peace to all people’s hearts and souls who have put worst allegations on us. So it’s to clear you all that the font, color, layout, style, blueprint, background, images and content are neither copied, stolen, theft, robbed and burgled nor violated any COPYRIGHTS of any book. I am really very thankful to Auraq Publications that have greatly supported and tackled the issue in a better and thoughtful way.
However, for more understanding of the inside content, where I put my heart and all the efforts, you can order my book directly so you can know well before blaming someone that what I have originally put in it.
Note that we reserve all the rights, including legal notice, to proceed and act if the humiliation and assassination continues. Thank you!
What do you think about this?
Zaheer firmly claims that no part of her book– concept, content or layout– is plagiarized and her book is the result of her hard work and efforts. In the light of everything that has unfolded, it seems to come as a surprise that the author has taken a strong viewpoint and is denying all accusations made against her. What Unnahar or the rest of the community has to say about this is still not known.
If you want to check out the evidence the author has talked about, you can click here. Let us know what you think about the #mooncontroversy in the comments below!
In a time where copies and duplicates make up a big part of any industry, originality is a rare feature of a work, appreciated by those who understand what it takes to create something unique and independent. Like in any other community, time and again, the literary world has been shocked by the surfacing of plagiarized works: the 1978 Roots scandal or more recently the speech made by First Lady Melania Trump which turned out to be Michelle Obama’s are quiet some examples.
Plagiarism is the “unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author” (HEC); an act of stealing all or parts of someone’s original work and passing it off as one’s own. Basically, it means to take credit for that which an individual has not personally created. It is a practice that the literary community is riddled with but one which is seriously frowned upon by readers and writers alike.
Not only is plagiarism a social evil but also has legal consequences. Again, in Pakistan, the law is more concerned with academic plagiarism than literary plagiarism. It involves dismissal or rustication for teachers and students, respectively. A literary author, however, runs the risk of defamation, blacklisting, rejection from publishers for all future works and more.
How Daastan handled Plagiarism Cases?
As a publishing house based in Pakistan, we at Daastan have had our share of dealing with cases of plagiarized works. In most cases, writers copy another work, word by word; in others, we see extensive use of the thesaurus. For the latter kind, it takes a sharp eye and a detailed read to weed out manuscripts that are unoriginal. A “plagiarism check” is an essential part of our editorial process; our editors judge a manuscript by its ability to stand on its own, without the help of outer influences.
While there are no qualms about being inspired by other writers (some of the best works are born that way), we strongly oppose the practice of plagiarism in literature. The beauty of literature is the perspectives it offers to readers. Behind that perspective is an author’s hard work, research and dedication. When works are copied, that hard work is disrespected. We, as a community, stand firmly against that.
The Noor vs Khizra scandal
Recently, the plagiarism incident of a book titled “The moon has my heart” has been making waves across social media platforms. It has induced the anger of the literary community as a whole but has also split us in “for” and “against” teams.
On the 27th of December, 2019, a local publishing house launched a poetry book titled “The moon has my heart” written by the Instagram influencer and poetess Khizra Zaheer. The book was in the works for some time: pre-orders, cover launches and giveaways were all set to go. On the website, the book was said to be “a rich and beautiful collection of poetry about life, love, loss, inspiration, hurt, strength, nature and family”. The author herself was receiving praise from her readers on the accomplishment of a second poetry book.
Some readers, however, noticed that the book cover for “The moon has my heart” was very similar to another book. This was the generally acclaimed poetry book “yesterday I was the moon” by Noor Unnahar—a talented 22-year-old writer who has been published by Penguin Random House. Her book “yesterday I was the moon” has received much praise from readers and critics and the book cover has won a design award by the New York Book Show!
The similarities didn’t end here. Readers who bought the book confirmed that the inside layout as well as parts of the book were copied off of Unnahar’s book. One reader said, that “most of the book was badly plagiarized. Original poems had terrible grammar. Others were heavily inspired from Noor’s book”.
The literary community came forward as a united front, dug deep and recognized the similarities between the launch ceremonies of the two books as well. Whereas another reader threatened the publisher for legal action.
While there were those who stood firmly against the blatant plagiarism and called out the publishers, some readers took a different perspective. A group of writers insisted that the book was actually not plagiarized. The book cover bore a resemblance to “yesterday I was the moon” but the content inside was different. Others argued that because it was only similar to Unnahar’s work and not exactly a copy, it did not come under “copyrights infringement”. More still, came out in support of Khizra Zaheer.
The majority, however, lay with those who did not consider this a mere coincidence. Noor Unnahar, herself, took to Instagram to talk about the case. She said, “I was informed that the cover of my book, along with the layout inside, was copied by an author. I knew them, had interacted with them when they needed help with publishing their first book.” She also said that she was, “heartbroken” but that the “support that came from the writing community has been splendid. Together, we reached the publishers of the book in question to take it down.”
The evolution of publishing industry
The support that Noor has seen on part of the literary community tells us how far we’ve come. 5 years ago, Daastan started as a publishing company, hoping to revive the dying literary industry of Pakistan; to put in our part in its rejuvenation. Seeing the kind of ferocity that the readers of Pakistan have defended an author’s work with, we are convinced that that revival is well on its way.
The community has evolved to expect the best and the original: where once, this incident might not have invoked such a strong voice on part of the readers, today it has resulted in the authorities taking action. Auraq publishers have taken down the book “The moon has my heart” from their website and further action is expected. When approached, they told us they had issued an official statement regarding the matter. The author, Khizra Zaheer, was also asked to address the situation and has recently issued her own statement through Daastan. You can read what she has to say here.
At the end of the day, however, when it comes to the standard that has been set for the publishing industry in Pakistan, it’s refreshing to see what the literary community expects of us: honesty and transparency. Daastan always strives for excellence in publishing: from our team of editors who work tirelessly on manuscripts, to our readers who keep us on our toes, we are taking this journey for the revival of Pakistani literature, step-by-step.
Sardar Ahmed Bhatti, the father of my dear friend Dr Shaheena Ayub Bhatti, is the author of the book, and although listed by the publishers as a biography, it is much more than that. It is a combination of family history, some glimpses of the author’s own life and, chiefly, a loving homage paid to a national hero, Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed (Nishan e Haidar).
Sardar Saheb’s style of writing is anecdotal. He calls it a labor of love, as he says, “It has taken time recollecting the past, and some memories are very painful.”
As the title suggests, the writer is the Shaheed’s brother and he projects the heroic qualities of his elder brother with respect, love and admiration. There is no doubt that Maj. Aziz Bhatti Shaheed had an extraordinary personality. Such characters find their niche whatever the circumstances.
Sardar Saheb’s style of writing is anecdotal. He calls it a labor of love, as he says, “It has taken time recollecting the past, and some memories are very painful.” The story of growing up in Hong Kong reinforces the fact that Sardar and Aziz were very close, sharing pranks, escapades and joint ventures where the young one always followed his elder brother unquestioningly.
After giving very brief sketches of his own life and that of his father’s, the author goes on to describe life in Hong Kong where the five Bhatti boys grew up. Descriptions of life at home and in school are intertwined forming the major part of the young boys’ transition to adulthood. In the background, there is a political narrative where the boys’ lives are pushed into the chaos created by Second World War. The British surrendered Hong Kong to the Japanese forces on the Christmas day in 1941. With this began a time of struggle and hardships.
With schools closed, no income and savings nullified, the Bhatti family needed the younger lot to pitch in. Even the building where they lived was bombarded. The various incidents in the war ravaged country are described with stoic resignation. The war also took the toll on one life from the clan. One brother, Bashir Ahmed, older than Aziz died in Japanese Naval Custody. When the war ended, the family returned to their village in Gujrat and the young men struggled to find employment opportunities. At this point in time, Pakistan came into being and the three elder siblings joined the armed forces of this newly established homeland created for the Muslims of the Subcontinent.
Most of the events of Aziz Bhatti’s life are written in chronological order in the biography. As for the narrative of his Shahadat, the author only gives us the text of the official citation for Major Aziz Bhatti who was posthumously awarded Nishan-e-Haider
Aziz Bhatti was an outstanding Cadet at the Pakistan Military Academy. He received the Sword of honor and the Norman medal for academic excellence. Later he attended the Canadian Staff College. Having got married during his Cadetship, he shouldered this new responsibility as a hero should. With a growing family of seven children, life of an army major must have been tough. He built a house in Tench Bhatta, Rawalpindi and also persuaded Sardar to build one in the same locality.
Most of the events of Aziz Bhatti’s life are written in chronological order in the biography. As for the narrative of his Shahadat, the author only gives us the text of the official citation for Major Aziz Bhatti who was posthumously awarded Nishan-e-Haider. Aziz Bhatti’s valor, courage, devotion to the duty and leadership qualities speak for themselves. And the author has not added to the national narrative with further comments. He was buried in a corner of his father’s garden in his ancestral village, and his aged mother and father bore this great loss with fortitude and faith in Allah’s will.
A number of photographs are included in the book and naturally they are black and white. But if possible their quality may be enhanced in future editions. The font is large and the printing is also of high quality. A must read for all Pakistanis especially the young generation lest we forget our heroes.
The writer is visiting faculty, English Deptt, Fatima Jinnah Women University, Rawalpindi
The APYE is a two-weeks intensive program that aims at increasing awareness among youth about global problems and help them develop and enhance skills to combat those problems by taking initiative. Combining activity-based learning, immersion from local communities and leadership training, APYE encourages youth to take action furthering the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Daastan in APYE-2019
The theme for this year’s APYE was Sustainable Tourism and with 116 delegates from 15 countries, the competition could not get any tougher. The participants were divided into groups and had to devise applicable solutions to address some of the most pressing problems faced by Thai villages and their inhabitants.
Daastan’s CEO, Ommer Amer, leading a group of six dedicated and hardworking individuals from different countries came up with an innovative digital toolkit to help local businesses market themselves. For their unique idea, they bagged the 2nd prize at the APYE. From a cultural perspective, the experience was rich and enabled Ommer to take part in many interactive activities such as Canal Cleaning Drive, Mini marathon and Thai Cultural Dance.
Your Chance to Shine in APYE-2020
After the success at the intercultural exchange event, Daastan decided to go one step ahead and partner with APYE to provide an all-expenses paid trip for next year’s programme. We’re looking for dedicated entrepreneurs, aged 18-28. You should have a basic understanding of SDGs in Action and posses critical thinking skills. Fluency in English and strong leadership qualities are a must and specialized skills such as ability to code, design, paint, write, sing, play, build and plan using digital technology would secure you an edge!
You will be able to learn and train with the 2nd prize winner of APYE and leader of his group: our very own founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Amer for 2 days. Learning from his experience and sharpening your social entrepreneurship skills. The challenge is to win the first prize at the APYE for Pakistan! The schedule for the 2-day training is as follows:
Intro to APYE
Identifying Problem and Interview Ethics
Mock Interviews of local leaders
Regular fee including all expenses per delegate is around $2500. However, participants trained by Daastan only have to pay a non-refundable fee of 25,000 PKR— all other expenses including air fare and lodgings will be covered by us. Moreover, you can avail an additional discount of 5000 Rs by registering by 30th Sep, 2019.
Do you have what it takes to become APYE’s champion?! If so, gear up to bring the first prize home and register now by filling out this form. For more information, you can check out our Facebook event page or leave a comment down below.
Among the most fearless, most resilient creatures on earth are the soldiers of a country that fight and bleed for the protection of their beloved homeland. Over the course of 72 years, Pakistan has been no stranger to war. Today our history books are filled with countless sombre and often gruesome yet heroic accounts of our brave soldiers. We hear about them from our grandparents, watch and read through their lives, priding in their bravery; basking in their glory
The Tale of One Such Sacrifice:
One such life story is of the receiver of the Nishaan-e-Haider, Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed. His is a name familiar to every man, woman and child of Pakistan. He is a national hero; an awe-inspiring leader who led a limited number of soldiers to carry out a fiercedefense of the Burki area of the Lahore sector in the 1965 war with India. Despite being outnumbered and under unceasing fire from the enemy, Maj. Aziz Bhatti launched a strong, impenetrable defense against the Indian Army. Dismissing offers to rest or even see his family members in Lahore, our hero soldiered on. During an intense exchange of artillery fires between the two armies, he was hit by an enemy tank shell and embraced Shahadat.
The valiant soldier stood undaunted in the face of the raging enemy and laid down his own life to protect countless others.
Bringing his Story Back to Life:
This is the aspect of his courageous story that we are familiar with. But what most don’t know is who Maj. Aziz Bhatti was, without the title. Who he was as a person, a son, a friend. When, earlier this year, his brotherSardar Ahmed Bhatti reached out to Daastan with the intention of publishing a biography he had written about his brother, we were honored to be chosen for the task. Written from the perspective of a loving brother, the book gives an insight into previously unknown events of Maj. Aziz Bhatti’s life, his relationship and closeness with his brother, his life in Hong Kong as a boy before and during World War II and several unpublished, memorable pictures.
As a platform bent towards literary revival, Daastan strives to bring lost stories to life; stories that are worth being told and preserved. We are proud to be the means of bringing forth this heart-warming account of Maj. Aziz Bhatti’s life away from the border, to the public. The book titled “Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed: My Brother, My Hero” is available on Qissa’s website and has received over-whelming responses and appreciation from all over the country on our social media.
To honor the story of Pakistan’s son, a book launch ceremony is being held on the 12th of September from 14:30-17:30 at the Pakistan Academy of Letters, hosted by Daastan. On this Defence Day, as we look back to the lives of our warriors, let us seek inspiration from their courage and glean wisdom from their actions. Join us on the 12th to remember the sacrifices Maj. Aziz Bhatti has made for the protection of this beloved homeland. As we stand with the Shaheed’s family, we stand united under the slogan that kept him standing for so long, holding his own– unbroken, relentless–in front of the enemy: Pakistan Zindabad!
You can order your copy of Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed: My Brother, My Herohere.
On 8th July, 2019, a literary event was held at the Hyderabad Press Club, honoring the works and achievement of the young writer Mehrban Ali. At only 31 years of age, Mehrban Ali has authored a startling number of 50 successful books. His works explore religious themes and record the lives of many Islamic and historic personalities including Shams Tabraiz, Hazrat Fatima, Baba Bullay Shah, Hazrat Hussain, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal. His works also encompass the events of Islam’s most prominent battles and some religious phenomenon such as the interpretation of dreams and astrology.
Mehrban Ali is a motivational speaker, a social worker and a writer. His works can be found on his website as well as on his YouTube channel where he publishes religiously informative videos. At a young age, Mehrban Ali is a social entrepreneur and has paved the way for the upcoming young generation.
The event was attended by many renowned names of the Sindhi and Pakistani literary industry including Naseer Mirza, Shafih Warsi and Ali Gul. Attendants wore representative Ajrak shawls and gave their views about Mehrban Ali’s work. They encouraged the young writer’s efforts and congratulated him on his achievement of writing 50 books. Mehrban Ali was acknowledged as an entrepreneurial force in the industry and a motivation for young writers all around Pakistan. His works are a milestone, especially in the Islamic literary industry and are available in both English and Urdu to reach bigger audiences.
Speaking to the audience, Mehrban Ali said that his books contain the message of love, peace and brotherhood. His works are research based and inspired by the teachings of his grandfather and great grandfather. The audience greatly appreciated his address. Guest of Honour Salamat Feroz– a well-known Sindhi musician- termed the ceremony to be a spiritual event. At the end of the ceremony, Mehrban Ali was presented with an achievement award for being Pakistan’s Youngest Writer to achieve the publication of 50 books.
At the very start of the year, Daastan’s Founder Syed Ommer Amer received the very important news of having been selected as a fellow for the National SDG Bootcamp, which was happening at the National Incubation Center Islamabad. Daastan was among 22 other social enterprises chosen to be a part of the bootcamp. The workshop was concluded with a National Dialogue event titled the SDG Changemaker’s Summit, in which the winners of the bootcamp were selected, and Daastan had the honor of being one of them.
What is SDG Bootcamp?
The SDG Bootcamp was a 4-day, first-of-its-kind, entrepreneurship bootcamp which happened in collaboration with DEMO and UNDP Pakistan. It selected social enterprise founders who were helping the nation achieve Sustainable Development Goals and took them through a journey of extensive training so as to enhance their pitch for funds, social impact, financial models and outreach.
Daastan had a lifetime opportunity, and was presented in front of more than 1000 delegates from over 20 countries. Ommer communicated how Daastan was empowering the literary community by helping writers monetize their work, and revamping the literary industry at the national level. If you are a writer who wants to get the most out of their work, you can always sign up with us on Qissa.
With this opportunity, Daastan went global and is now actively seeking as well as collaborating with international partners, which will help the team realize their dream of using literature as a means of earning for writers and encourage social community building, in addition to paving the way for a new tomorrow free from stigma, illiteracy, conflict and intolerance.
During the mid-summer of 2018, before Daastan Naama app was made available to the public through Google Play Store, an extensive marketing campaign was conducted on social media websites. The campaign, recorded under the hashtag of #OneOftheFifty, gained so much popularity and garnered an astonishing amount of traffic. People from all around the world wanted in on the new hit thing that was Daastan Naama, and would reach out to the team constantly to find out what it is that needed to be done to become a part of it. Speculations bloomed about who these celebrated authors were, how they were selected, and what is it that they were a part of.
Creative posters were designed which had the picture and name of the author, along with the title of their work which was to appear in Daastan Naama. The posters were titled with hashtags of #Top50AuthorsYouDontKnowAbout and #OneofFifty, which created a buzz in the whole community of Daastan over what was coming. Eventually it would become clear that not only would the work of these authors be uploaded to the app, but in fact, it would be done so in the way of poetry recitals and podcasts. This innovative twist on sharing their work brought it to life, and that too in their very own voice.
Each author in the spotlight had something unique to add to the app. The very first one was Ms. Kayenaat Hameed Khattak, an English poetess whose poem “God is Great” was chosen for the app. The next author was Ms. Dania Shah, whose Urdu humorous prose “Muhabbat ki Shadi” found its way up, followed by Urdu prose of Ms. Durre Shahwar Ali. Other English poets featured included Ms. Waneeza Zia, Ms. Momina Latif, Ms. MaryamMr. Hassan Naqvi, Mr. Saad Ahmad, Ms. Maryam Arshad, etc. Mr. Morgan Melhuish, from the United Kingdoms, also contributed an English poem. Another very curious and pleasant feature was the addition of two Pashto poems by Ms. Spugmai Alee Khattak, and also a poetry piece in Punjabi by Mr. Abrar Nadeem, an award-winning author and script writer for PTV. A Punjabi play was contributed by Ali Usman Bajwa.
Want to have a trove of literary goodness on your phones? Download the app now!
The members of Daastan are immensely proud of the way the company has scaled beyond even their wildest imaginations. It has been such a pleasure to watch the way it inspires not only them but thousands around the country to do more, step a little ahead of the game, and bring to the stage all the creativity that was hidden in them for ages before they tapped it. Daastan doesn’t just excel at the play of words, but rather it is a digital hub of activity. It is always on the lookout for carving out niches which can help the creatives get more involved with us, and also attain greater reach for those who we have already published. It was one such drive which led us to what was to become the next big thing in Daastan.
A New Avenue:
The internet presence of Daastan started from Facebook, from where it went on to take over all of the major social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and such. What followed was Daastan’s very own website, and then, Qissa’s self-publishing portal. All of these mediums were received enthusiastically by our followers, and praised heavily in the public by the critics. Over the years, the team behind Daastan made it a point to strengthen their digital presence, providing professional and aesthetic upgrades to Qissa, and modeling space in Daastan’s website for each new venture as it came along. And so, after having mastered the internet through most of the avenues that are offered, only one was missing – a mobile application.
It struck the team that most of their readers’ time online is spent on our phones, not PCs, and that to increase our readership and make the work of our writers readily available, we must also provide it on their phones – much like any other eBook they would be reading. And so, the team dived headfirst into bringing this idea to reality. In July of 2018, Daastan Naama finally hit Google Play Store, bursting with literary goodness that was now available just a touch away. The app’s interface was divided into two portions. One featured all the fiction published under the banner of The Stories Untold. The second was an interesting feature which had the poetry and other works of almost 50 authors, vocalized and brought to life by their own voice.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, download it on your mobile phones from Play Store now!
Coming back with another exciting feature of the Trailblazers series, where we focus on individuals of our family who spread their wings and took off towards heights previously unthought of and uncharted. In this feature we will be writing about another graduate of the second batch of our Literary Fellowship program, Fatema Bhaiji.
Her Journey through the World of Words:
Before she joined our fellowship though, she had already made herself known and left a mark on us, by participating in and becoming one of the top finalists of The Stories Untold season two. Her story, titled “Holding her Hand”, was in perfect accordance with the theme of our story writing competition, “A War Within”. Fatema, in her book, addressed very boldly the dilemma of having feelings for an individual of the same gender, the havoc it causes on our emotions and inner stability, all the while living in a society which in no way tolerates this. Her book was put up for crowdfunding, and through the help of our community, was brought to print.
With this booming introduction, Fatema came to join the Editorial department of our fellowship program. Halfway through the program, while she was also pursuing her engineering degree in Sri Lanka, she came to the team with her idea of forming a queer lit magazine targeted towards the South Asian community that zeroed in on increasing the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community through art, poetry and stories. In the beginning of the fellowship, the graduates were encouraged to pursue projects of their own and full support on behalf of Daastan was promised to them. When the time came, despite all the criticism and hate that was thrown at the team for powering a magazine of a community otherwise ostracized by all, Daastan stood strong. And so, the Outcast magazine ‘came out’ – its website was launched a little over a month after the idea was rolled out, and its first digital issue came out just a month later.
Acclaim and Applause:
Outcast Magazine was later on endorsed by a global platform, i.e. Commonwealth Writers, and conducted an extension of our Stories Untold Season 4 on their forum, encouraging those from the LGBTQ+ community to put to words any abuse they might have faced, directly or indirectly. Outcast went on to announce a Micro Fiction competition of their own in collaboration with Daastan and White Falcon Publishing, and released their first issue in print the very next year. Fatema was invited to many events as a speaker, one of which was “Salzburg Global Forum” held in Nepal and powered by UNDP.
Since its inception, Daastan has had a very positive history with Telenor’s different initiatives for entrepreneurs and startups. The company was selected as a part of the Telenor Velocity business accelerator program in the year of 2016, and had the opportunity to closely work with them throughout the course of the year that followed. Since then, we have been featured multiple times on the social media channels of Telenor’s various programs for our different achievements.
Telenor Youth Forum:
In August 2018, the sixth edition of Telenor Youth Forum was held in Islamabad. This initiative is held in collaboration with theNobel Peace Center, bringing together smart minds from all over the world to develop digital solutions that curb inequalities, and in turn empower societies. The platform focuses on encouraging ideas that have high social impact and which support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) put forth by the UN for international development. The previous winners of Telenor Youth Forum have included renowned figures such as Saad Hamid, a digital evangelist, Fatima Rizwan, founder of TechJuice.com, Haroon Yasin, founder of Orenda & receiver of Queen’s Young Leaders Award and Sajawal Waseem.
Our Journey Through the Forum:
Over 3500 participants with unique ideas applied for the top spot in the platform, and pitched in front of various highly qualified individuals of the industry. Daastan’s founder, Mr. Syed Ommer Amer’s presentation elaborated how there was a severe dearth of opportunities for the citizens of our country to showcase their work, and all that Daastan had done in building a digital infrastructure for the literary industry of Pakistan. With Daastan’s digital portal Qissa, and its newly launched mobile app Daastan Nama, the company had been successful in reaching hundreds of creatives and helping them bring their work forward to be shared with the world. Daastan was ranked top 10 in the competition, and was featured on many of Telenor’s platforms for its achievement.
Daastan’s vision for the revival of literature was never limited to the widely used language English, nor was it bound to our national language Urdu. In fact, when Daastan launched its Qissa self-publishing portal, it was one of the very first forums to recognize the need for an online tool that allows users to upload their works in regional languages such as Pashto and Punjabi. After that, the team worked hard to bring on board specialists that would help us realize the dream of thousands of writers, and breathe life back into the literature of such languages, that were heaving its last breaths. And so, Daastan finally upgraded its tool into one that accepted most of the regional languages of Pakistan.
To further this idea, Daastan in collaboration with Punjabi Parchar, launched its very firstPunjabi Writing Competition by the name of “Likh Punjabi”. Punjabi Parchar is a hub of intellectuals from the Punjabi community, that works exclusively for the preservation and promotion of Punjabi literature, art and culture. The editor of Punjabi at Daastan, Ali Usman Bajwa, helped bring them on board with us – and he also took lead on Likh Punjabi and became project manager for the module. Such a competition being held in the language which is very dear to his heart was his lifelong dream, and in Daastan the team is willing to work day and night to bring the dreams of their family to reality.
Dream Turned Reality:
Likh Punjabi became an excellent initiative to revive and rebrand Punjabi literature. It helped us reach the legendary authors who, even in this day and age, refused to part with their ancestral language. Due to this movement, we got the opportunity to work with Punjabi authors, helping them digitize their stories and tales, and preserve their work so that it could reach lands as far and wide as they wished.
Daastan has had the honor of knowing, providing services to, and publishing various distinguished personalities from all across Pakistan. All of them have been working in one or another innovative way to help our country summit mountains, helping our knowledge and economy move forward by leaps and bounds. To be trusted by these individuals and to be able to fulfill their criteria of an effective service is the reason that Daastan has grown exponentially. The latest in the list of such personages was Hassan Mueez – a business man who was also highly educated from a school that was held in very high esteems not only in Pakistan, but all over the world.
Belonging to an otherwise underdeveloped area of Punjab, Burewala, Hassan had the extraordinary passion of reading and writing. From the start, it seems, he knew how to get ahead, and it was this quality of his which eventually lead him to pursue and complete his master’s degree from Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). After his graduation, he moved back to his hometown and started his very own business, launching a rice factory by the name of Al Majeed Rice Factory.
His Secret to Success:
The book that he chose to publish digitally through Daastan, on our Qissa portal, fell in the genre of self-help and was titled “Fear Management”. A strong believer in the word of God, Hassan introduced a way to handle and even get the most out of our fears, proving to both ourselves and the world that we cannot be held back by something that resides only in our minds. The book approaches the topic with a practical mindset, providing accurate explanations regarding where these feelings stem from and how to outsmart them. Hassan’s book was later also published on Amazon Kindle.
Come the summer of 2018, having just successfully conducted a ground breaking season of The Stories Untold, Daastan teamed up with a few others who were also in the race to bring quality literature to their readers. Since its inception, Daastan and Qissa had scaled, and eventually launched a writing competition which was dubbed “Literati”. The team was once again taking not only Pakistan by storm, but were also slowly but surely taking over the world too. And so, to bring another round of thought-provoking stories that made one bite their nails with the anticipation of what was coming next, which would eventually lead to an unavoidable heartbreak on the part of the reader as the story would slowly draw to a close, we opened the award for participants from all over South Asia.
Literati Micro Fiction:
Literati was brought to the public in collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, a company that provided the services of self-publishing much the same way as us and encouraged quality literature to find its way to the surface, but across the border in India. Another collaborator of the micro story writing competition was Outcast, a queer lit magazine which was founded by a graduated Literary Fellow of Daastan. The authors of the micro fiction award were given a time period of one month, in which they were to write short stories with no more than 2500 words on the themes of “The Fifth Rivulet” and “Mosaiced Souls”. The themes themselves were enough to get any true storyteller thinking and dreaming in their world of imagination, spinning and weaving tales which would eventually find their way to our screens.
The award was closed a month after its launch, and all the partners were delighted to received more than a hundred submissions of gripping and awe-inspiring literature. The submissions were all carefully reviewed, and the top 20 were selected. These finalists would receive the exciting prize of seeing their work go into print, along with exclusive opportunities to further their career as a writer.
Ours is a mission to put a book in every hand, join us now to to become a part of our community of readers and writers.