In this crucial time, when relations between Pakistan and India are at a sensitive stage, it has become all the more important to promote peace, positivity and love among the two nations. While the drawing of our borders years ago declared us two separate nations, at heart, a Pakistani and an Indian are the same. They are born of the same homeland and in their hearts, they carry the same love. To explore and promote that love and to reminisce the past, we decided to do something. In collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, India , Daastan launched a #WriteForPeace letter-writing campaign.
Chitti Sarhad Parr Say– a letter-writing campaign which began in January 2020. It aimed at reconciling peace across borders through letter writing which is a long-forgotten art. Writers from both countries were requested to send in their letters for the campaign as part of a contest. This activity was mainly aimed at mending the relation between Pakistan and India. Letter writing is a very personal and emotional task that requires both the reader and writer to invest in a piece of paper. By doing so today, thousands of readers and writers got a chance to feel and connect with their counterparts.
The Love We Received
We received an enormous amount of love from both countries in shape of letters that touched us deeply. Daastan processed the entries from Pakistan while the submissions from our Indian writers were handled by the good folk at White Falcon. Letters from Pakistan were submitted in English and Urdu. From a huge number of submissions, 19 were short-listed. Selecting the letters from a pool of immensely talented Pakistani writers was one of the hardest tasks we had to do. Every submission was heart-felt, and struck a cord. The entries went beyond our expectations and we got to see some highly well-articulated letters.
The Selected Entries
We decided that the selected entries deserved a book of their own. So, in collaboration with White Falcon Publishing, India, Daastan chose some of the best entries to be compiled together in book form and be published digitally on Qissa–Pakistan’s first self-publishing platform. Qissa provides local writers an opportunity to publish their work and reach readers on a wide scale. Qissa has been publishing stories and anthologies since 2016 and aims to reinstate a literary culture in Pakistan.
The entries that spoke to us (and in some cases, made us tear up!) are:
Hajra Imran Khan
Naheed Akhtar Baloch
Dr Fiaz Ahmad Dar
Ifrah Ahmed Malik
All writers showcased great skill and talent. We were moved by the gush of emotions that each letter brought with itself. Stories of pain, suffering, love and tragedy were all equally spell-bounding. A small peek into one of our short-listed letters read:
‘At the time of departure our hearts were crying. Do you know why we don’t come back? Because things never did get settled. I know you cursed me early the next morning when you came to our house for breakfast and no one was there. I know you wept bitterly when the walls and swings in my courtyard didn’t answer your questions. I know you asked every passerby about us.’
Chitti Sarhad Parr Say was an attempt in writing for peace at a time when atrocities between the two countries are increasing every day. The medium of letter writing perfectly complements the campaign as letters provide a very personal account of one’s feelings which the reader can easily relate to. The bond between the two countries is above political agendas and must be achieved so through a positive communication. We, at Daastan, promote the ideology of peace and love through words. Help us grow by sharing your stories and becoming a part of the Published writers in Pakistan simply by signing up with us @ Daastan.
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
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.