January issue 2019

By | Newsliners | Published 11 months ago

Here’s to some of our Pakistanis in diverse fields who have established their presence on the world map by winning international awards.

By Deneb Sumbul

Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor

In January 2018, a Pakistani animated film, Allahyar and the Legend of Markhor, was one of the winners of the Monolith Award for content at the prestigious Infinity Film Festival held at Beverly Hills, California.

Written and directed by Uzair Zaheer Khan, the animated production highlights the concept of respect for wildlife and the importance of its preservation through the story of Allahyar, a young, mischievous boy who deals with difficult circumstances in the mountainous regions of Pakistan where he meets Mehru the markhor.  The film was Pakistan’s official entry at the 15th Annual South Asian International Film Festival (SAIFF) held in New York between December 12-16, 2018. As the largest film premiere destination for South Asian/Indian filmmakers in the US, SAIFF screens films solely from South Asia, namely India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Nepal.

Kamila Shamsie

British-Pakistani author Kamila Shamsie was awarded the London Hellenic Prize 2017 for her seventh novel, Home Fire, at a ceremony held at the Centre for Hellenic Studies in King’s College, London in November 2018. The literary award is given to the best book inspired by or relating to Greece, and carries a cash prize of £10,000. Home Fire is a contemporary re-imagining of the Greek tragedy, Antigone, that follows the story of three sibling orphans: an elder sister Isma and twins, Aneeka and Parvaiz. The latter leaves them to work for ISIS. According to the London Hellenic Prize website, Kamila Shamsie was chosen as the winner at the conclusion of a heated debate at the New College, Oxford. Earlier, Shamsie’s book Home Fire won the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2018, and a £30,000 cash award. In 2018, Home Fire was also longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature.

Hammad Rizvi

Pakistani-American Hammad Rizvi, the writer/director-producer of the short film, Rani, won the Outstanding Writer Award at the 13th Annual NBC Universal Short Film Festival held in Los Angeles on October 24. Rizvi’s film featured transgender Kami Sid who portrays Rani, a destitute, socially outcast Pakistani transgender who refuses to indulge in socially unacceptable activities to earn her daily bread. Instead, she sells toys to make a living and adopts an abandoned child. Kami Sid was nominated in the Best Actress category for her performance and received a standing ovation at the awards ceremony.

Known for celebrating diverse storytelling and storytellers, the NBC Universal Short Film Festival received 3,400 submissions this year. One of the initial 15 semi-finalists, Rani made it to the final list representing the work of the best and the brightest upcoming filmmakers. The film also won the Fox Inclusion Award at Outfest LA and has been screened at several film festivals, including the Newport Beach Film Festival, the Rhode Island International Film Festival the Asian American Film Festival and the Tasveer South Asian Film Festival.

Zia Mian

Nuclear scientist Zia Mian has been named the winner of the 2019 Leo Szilard Lectureship Award. The American Physical Society (APS) gives this award in recognition of outstanding accomplishments by physicists promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society in areas such as the environment, arms control and science policy. Mian is being honoured by APS for “promoting global peace and nuclear disarmament, particularly in South Asia, through academic research, public speaking, technical and popular writing and organising efforts to ban nuclear weapons.”

Mian co-directs a programme on Science and Global Security (SGS), a part of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, where he has been working since 1997.  His work focuses on nuclear disarmament, arms control and nonproliferation, and fissile materials, particularly in South Asia. He is co-chair of the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), a group of independent technical and policy experts from 16 countries working to reduce global stockpiles of nuclear weapon-useable material. After India and Pakistan conducted a series of nuclear tests in 1998, Mian played a crucial role in educating the public and governments in the two countries on the dangers of using nuclear weapons.

Mian also received the 2014 Linus Pauling Legacy Award for “his accomplishments as a scientist and as a peace activist in contributing to the global effort for nuclear disarmament and for a more peaceful world.” In 2017, he was appointed a non-resident fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research. He serves on the board of the Arms Control Association.

Mahera Omar

Pakistani film-maker Mahera Omar won the best documentary award in the ‘Across the Border’ category at the 7th Delhi International Film Festival held in October 2018. Unfortunately, despite the festival organisers best efforts, Mahera was denied an Indian visa to attend the festival to receive her award. Omar’s entry, The Rebel Optimist, showcases the life and work of Perween Rahman, the architect, urban planner and social activist who headed the Orangi Pilot Project – a scheme that helped people from low-income groups resolve their sanitation problems. Rahman worked fearlessly for the underprivileged until she was brutally gunned down in Karachi on  March 13, 2013.

The week-long Delhi International Film Festival received 600 plus film submissions from over 75 countries. It screened 194 films from 56 countries that were shortlisted for the final competition, including five entries from Pakistan. Omar’s 67-minute documentary had also won the Special Jury Mention Award in the non-fiction category at the 6th Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival held earlier in March 2018.

Hussein Fancy

In October 2018,  the American Historical Association (AHA) named Pakistani academic, Hussein Fancy, as winner of the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize for his book The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion and Violence in the Medieval Crown of Aragon. Fancy, an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Studies, at the University of Michigan, won the literary award for the best book in European history, which will be presented to him in January 2019. The AHA is a non-profit membership organisation founded in 1884 and was incorporated by Congress in 1889 for the

promotion of historical studies. Comprising 12,000 members, it is the largest organisation of historians in the United States.  The Adams Prize confered by the AHA, is widely considered to be the most prestigious prize in the field of European history. 

Fancy has won two other literary awards earlier in 2018 for the same book:  the L. Carl Brown Prize from the American Institute of Maghreb Studies for the best book in North African studies and the 2018 Jans F. Verbruggen Prize from De Re Militari for the best book in medieval military history.

Sayeeda Leghari

Sayeeda Leghari’s cookbook, Pakistan Heritage Cuisine – A Food Story, won the ‘Best Asian Cookbook in the World’ at the 2018 Gourmand World Awards  – the Oscars of cookbook awards. The awards took place in Yantai, China in May 2018, and Leghari’s coffee table book was competing with five other cookbooks in the category. A Food Story explores the evolution of Pakistani cuisine and the history of biryani and kulchas. 

Pakistan Heritage Cuisine – A Food Story was published by Markings, who have two previous Gourmand awards to their credit: for Lal Majid’s Deliciously Yours  and the second for the Pakistan-India collaborative cookbook, Flavours of the Frontier, in 2015. 

Moiz Ullah Baig 

19-year-old student from Pakistan, Moiz Ullah Baig, was crowned the Junior World Scrabble Champion at the World Scrabble Championships 2018 held in Torquay, England in October. This is the second youth title of Moiz’s career. Earlier, he won the World Youth Scrabble Championship in 2013. He is the only player in history to achieve this feat. Moiz climbed to the number one spot after round no 6 on the first day and never relinquished his position till the end. With one round still to go, he was declared the champion as he had an unassailable lead.

Malala Yousafzai  

On December 6, Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai received the 2018 Gleitsman Award from Harvard’s Kennedy School for her work on promoting girls’ education. After surviving an assassination attempt by the Taliban, Yousafzai founded the non-profit Malala Fund to support her social work. Harvard officials contend her story has inspired a generation of boys and girls to follow in her footsteps. The Gleitsman Award provides $125,000 for activism that has improved the quality of life around the world. Now aged 21, Yousafzai is a student at Oxford University in England. She became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, when she was recognised for her global work supporting schooling for all children.

Muhammad Waqas Usman Hingoro

Muhammad Waqas Usman Hingoro, an award-winning Pakistani scientist who hails from Karachi’s Lyari area, has successfully discovered a cancer-killing mechanism that will be applicable in the treatment of a wide-range of cancer types. Along with a team of international cancer biologists, Waqas unleashed the ability of ‘Extracellular Vesicles 9 (EVs),’ the red blood cells component which may carry drug delivery nanoparticles into the affected human body parts as well as the whole organism. Titled “Efficient RNA drug delivery using red blood cell extracellular vesicles,” Waqas Usman’s research has recently been published in the world’s leading science journal, Nature Communication.

Usman Hingoro earned his Bachelors in Clinical Laboratory in 2010 and after graduating, he joined the Aga Khan University and advanced his research work. In recognition of his research contributions, the Guangdong Hong Kong Macau Greater Bay Area Biomedical Sciences Forum awarded him the best prize at the International Symposium of Graduate Students, which was held on June 16, 2018.

Asma Jahangir 

Asma Jahangir, the iconic human rights activist and lawyer, was awarded the prestigious 2018 UN Human Rights Prize, posthumously. She was one of the four winners of the award given on the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founding member of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Jahangir served as the former UN Special Rapporteur on Extra-judicial Summary and Arbitrary Executions from 1998-2000 and as the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief since 2004. She died of cardiac arrest in Lahore at the age of 66.  

The UN Human Rights Prize winners are chosen every five years by a special committee of the UN General Assembly comprising the President of the General Assembly, the President of the Economic and Social Council, the President of the Human Rights Council, the Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women and the Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council. Asma Jahangir’s daughter Munizae received the award on her behalf at a ceremony held on December 18, at the UN Headquarters in New York.

Fakhre Alam

The media star made aviation history by becoming the first Pakistani to circumnavigate the globe solo in October 2018. An avid aviator, the TV host and actor shared the news with his fans on Twitter that Mission Parwaaz – one of his dreams – had finally come to fruition. Alam flew 26,000 nautical miles, using the same aircraft, stopping over at 30 airports around the world. He faced a minor setback, when he was detained at the Russian airport on the final leg of his journey for travelling on an expired visa. He was able to continue on his mission only after Pakistan’s Ambassador to Russia, Qazi Khalil Ullah intervened and assisted him in renewing his visa. 

The singer shared that it had taken three years of determination, patience and hard work to achieve Mission Parwaaz, and that his journey had been for the people of Pakistan. Alam is also the first Pakistani to achieve this feat with less than 100 hours of flying experience, whereas other pilots have attempted this record with at least 250 hours of flying time to their credit.  

Souriya Anwar & Jimmy Engineer

In December 2018, Souriya Anwar, the Founding President of SOS Children’s Villages Pakistan, and Jimmy Engineer, a prominent artist and social worker, became recipients of the prestigious Jinnah Awards, in recognition of their outstanding services to the country. Chief guest Senator Raza Rabbani presented the Jinnah Award to both the winners at a ceremony held in Karachi.  

The Jinnah Award is conferred by The Jinnah Society on persons who have rendered outstanding and meritorious services to the people of Pakistan. The Society was established in 1997 to propagate the principles, ideals and vision of Quaid-e-Azam as a nation-building exercise. In April 1998, Abdul Sattar Edhi, founder and Chairman of the Edhi Foundation, became the first recipient of the Jinnah Award.

Amna Riaz

Amna, a cooking expert from Pakistani who took to YouTube to teach assorted cuisines on her YouTube channel Kitchen with Amna, won a Gold Play Button from YouTube for garnering one million subscribers. In July 2018, she became the first Pakistani female to win this title, since YouTube opened up its partnership programme in Pakistan in 2017, allowing YouTubers from the country to finally monetise their videos and earn on the side. 

Since starting her cooking channel on YouTube in 2016, the talented chef has uploaded more than 500 recipes, garnering a substantial fan-following. Amna has the knack of teaching complicated Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, American and other cuisines in a simple and easy way that is a delight to watch, especially for beginners. She also teaches how to prepare healthy diet meals. Most of her videos are four minutes long and several of them have had over 1 million views. No mean feat for someone who started only two years ago.

YouTube has four tiers of awards to acknowledge the achievements of YouTubers in terms of getting subscribers on their channels. The Silver Play Button is awarded to those channels that have above 100,000 subscribers. The Gold Play Button is for those channels that cross 1,000,000 subscribers. The Diamond Play Button is for those who  reach 10,000,000 subscribers while the Ruby Play button is for channels that have 50,000,000 subscribers. Amna now plans to reach 10m subscribers on her YouTube channel in order to acquire the Diamond Play Button, which no Pakistani has achieved so far. 

Tanzila Khan & Saba Khalid

Two female-led ventures from Pakistan won the 2018 World Summit Awards (WSA) – an international competition which aims to select and promote the world’s best startup companies in digital content and innovative applications. The World Summit Awards is a global initiative, which selects and promotes local digital innovations that would have a high impact on improving society and help meet the challenges of the 21st century. Tanzila Khan and Saba Khalid, the two WSA winners from Pakistan, are among the 40 winners from 26 countries who will be presenting their innovations and receiving their awards at the WSA Global Congress in Cascais, Portugal in March 2019. 

Tanzila Khan won an award in the Health and Wellbeing category for Girlythings – a mobile application she produced which delivers sanitary products to women, with and without disabilities, through monthly subscriptions or even emergency kits. The App also delivers a daughter’s starter kit for young girls. This is the first ever product delivery system for women that aims to eliminate payment altogether. The App user earns points by giving capacity-building quizzes on the App, along with feedback quizzes to partners. The data of the quiz is published as a call for change in services, policies and products which is equivalent to meeting the demands of women, sharing their voices and encouraging the use of safe sanitary products even among those who cannot afford it.  

WSA winner Saba Khalid, also won in the Health and Wellbeing category, for Raaji – a chatbot application powered by Artificial Intelligence and human expertise that answers questions on reproductive health, hygiene and safety for women (and men) in developing countries. Khalid also bagged the BAFTA award for Raaji. This digital platform designed to educate women in Pakistan was nominated in the Artificial Intelligence (AI): Empowering the Future category, and won the coveted tve Global Sustainability Film Award at the BAFTAs for their animated series, The Ultimate Survivor. 

Team Auj

An all-girls team, ‘Team Auj,’ from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, won the Spirit of Formula Student Contest at the Formula Student 2018 Competition in the UK in July 2018. An engineering competition for students, held annually in Silverstone Circuit, UK, the Formula Student contest is run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. The contest is a distinct platform that provides opportunities to candidates from various universities to build single-seater race cars. Teams of students from varsities around the world, design, build, test and race small-scale Formula style racing cars, which are judged on a number of criteria. Representing NUST, ‘Team Auj’ were Harim Akhtar, Hanadi Hayat, Aatrah Rauf Shaikh, Sabah Zaman, Laiba Rodyna, Hira Ejaz, Wardah Jamal, Aqsa Jamal, Minahil Malik, Fatima Sohail, Zobia Noor, Cybil Braganza, Syeda Al-Aiman Zahra and Azka Athar who earned the unique distinction of being the first ones ever to build a race car from Pakistan.  

The first ever all-girls team from Pakistan included electrical engineers, industrial designers and students of business management, but surprisingly there was no mechanical engineer in the ensemble. The NUST girls were the second, all-female team and the first to participate in the UK competition.

Despite facing innumerable problems including the lack of funds, the team members successfully designed and constructed a Formula race car in time for the competition. Later the team was able to attract several sponsors and was also aided by the Pakistani Prime Minister’s office and invited to London by Syed Ibne Abbas, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK in recognition of their achievements.  

Nazar Ul Hassan

In December 2018, theatre actor Nazar ul Hassan received the Best Actor accolade at the 7th Mumbai Shorts International Film Festival (MSIFF) for the short film from Pakistan titled Kachrachi – an amalgam of the Urdu word katchra (trash) and Karachi.  

A 13-minute satirical film, Kachrachi touches upon conditions that have turned the once vibrant, thriving city into a virtual dumpyard that is consumed by the overwhelming trash and pollution. Hassan plays the role of a man driven to madness by it. His character goes through various phases and personas, including those of political leaders who have fallen short of keeping their promises to improve the city. Katchrachi is a reflection of the city’s present conditions and how it impacts the quality of life of the common man. 

The film was screened at numerous film festivals last year, including the 2018 Chicago South Asian Film Festival and the Canada Shorts Film Festival 2018, where the director, Ali Mehdi, received an Award of Commendation.

The writer is working with the Newsline as Assistant Editor, she is a documentary filmmaker and activist.