Awaz, Echoes of Freedom: A Documentation Of Ansar Burney's Humanitarian Legacy

Autobiography of human rights activist Ansar Burney details his struggle to bring an end to camel jockeys, reunite lost Indian Hindu girl who strayed into Pakistan with her parents

Awaz, Echoes of Freedom: A Documentation Of Ansar Burney's Humanitarian Legacy

In the tapestry of human history, there come along a few individuals who weave threads of compassion, courage, and activism to connect people, bridging chasms of injustice and suffering. Among these luminaries is human rights activist Ansar Burney, whose tireless efforts have reverberated from the alleyways of Karachi to the corridors of power globally.

Recently, a gathering was held to launch his autobiography, Awaz, Echoes of Freedom and Justice. Burney co-authored an account of his life with Shehar Bano Rizvi and Tasneem Premjee Chamdia. People came together at the Karachi Press Club to embark on a journey through the life and legacy of a man who breathed life into the forgotten, worked to lend his voice to the voiceless, and helped illuminate the path toward a more just world. 

Born in Pakistan, Ansar Burney fought against the menace of human trafficking, kindling hope in the darkest corners of despair. His saga unfolds as a testament to the indomitable spirit that knows no bounds, transcending the confines of nationality or circumstance. 

The genesis of Burney's odyssey traces back to the halls of the Karachi Press Club (KPC), where he visited many times to connect with journalists. So often, he would visit that many mistook him as a fellow journalist instead of a lawyer. Amidst the cacophony of political apathy and institutional neglect, Burney stood advocating for reform of Pakistan's beleaguered prison and justice system. This clarion call fell on deaf ears in the corridors of power. 

Burney's unwavering commitment to justice knew no bounds in a world marred by prejudice and indifference. His relentless pursuit of truth and compassion transcended borders, as evidenced by his impassioned crusade to secure the release of a Sikh man languishing on death row for three decades—a poignant reminder of the transformative power of empathy in a world plagued by bigotry and intolerance.

Yet Burney's crusade extended far beyond the confines of his homeland. In the deserts of the Middle East, he confronted the spectre of exploitation head-on, spearheading a campaign to end the abhorrent practice of tying scared young children to the backs of camels as jockeys. Through his unwavering resolve and steadfast determination, Burney helped rescue thousands of innocent souls from the clutches of servitude, offering them a glimpse of hope amidst the barren sands of despair.

The echoes of Burney's humanitarian endeavours reverberated across continents, finding resonance in the heartbreaking tale of Geeta — a lost soul adrift in a sea of uncertainty. As Bollywood immortalised her plight in the cinematic masterpiece "Bajrangi Bhaijaan", in real life, Burney emerged as the unsung hero behind the scenes, tirelessly striving to reunite Shahida, also known as Munni, with her long-lost family — a poignant reminder of the transcendent power of compassion in a world plagued by division and discord.

Few knew that Burney struggled to get Geeta, the real Munni, a Hindu girl stuck in Pakistan, to reunite with her family in India. The real Bajrangi Bhaijaan was Burney. While Pakistanis applauded the film, he was not celebrated in his country. Bollywood also switched the roles to show that an Indian struggled to take a Pakistani girl back to his family. 

Amidst the triumphs and tribulations that punctuated his storied career, Burney remained steadfast in his conviction that justice delayed is justice denied — a mantra that guided his every action and imbued his work with a sense of urgency and purpose. From the corridors of power to the hallowed halls of justice, Burney sought to challenge the status quo and usher in a new era of accountability and transparency — a vision that continues to inspire countless individuals around the globe.

Burney's story, captured in the pages of his autobiography, reminded us of the enduring power of the individual to effect meaningful change in an ever-changing world. His life is a testament to the transformative power of empathy, compassion, and courage—a beacon of hope in a world too often shrouded in darkness.

In the East, there is a concept of naming someone by identifying their inner spirit and perhaps mission in life. Burney was named 'Ansar' — which in Arabic means 'helpers' — and he took his name to mean his life's mission. 

Central to Burney's ethos is the belief that every individual, regardless of race, religion, or socioeconomic status, is entitled first to the universal dignity of being a human and then to the full spectrum of rights enjoined on all humans. His tireless efforts to combat human trafficking, child exploitation, and institutionalised injustice have not only transformed countless lives but have also inspired a new generation of activists to take up the mantle of advocacy and champion the cause of the oppressed.

At the heart of Burney's advocacy lies a deep-seated commitment to amplifying the voices of the marginalised and disenfranchised, shining a spotlight on the injustices that often lurk in the shadows of society. Through his groundbreaking work, Burney challenged entrenched power structures, holding governments and institutions accountable for their failures to protect the most vulnerable members of society. 

Burney raised his voice for accountability and transparency in Pakistan, a country grappling with systemic corruption and political instability. His tireless efforts to reform the country's prison system and eradicate the scourge of human trafficking have brought about tangible change, empowering marginalised communities and instilling a sense of hope in the face of adversity. 

In the face of daunting challenges and seemingly insurmountable odds, Burney remains undeterred in his pursuit of justice and human rights. Despite his advanced age, his resolve is unwavering and serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity.

Burney has set a high standard for the pursuit of justice and equality, of a struggle to build a just world where the rights of the marginalised are not just upheld but are jealously guarded, where the voices of the oppressed are heard, and where compassion reigns supreme. 

"We want change — not only political but also in the realm of human rights," Burney says.

To honour his legacy and to take on his mantle, we must follow in his footsteps to stand in solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed, for it is through our collective action that we shall truly usher in a brighter tomorrow. That is how the ripple effects of Burney's advocacy extend far beyond the confines of his native Pakistan, transcending borders and resonating with individuals from all walks of life. His unwavering commitment to the principles of justice and human dignity serves as a beacon of hope in a world rife with injustice and inequality. 

The struggle for human rights is an ongoing effort and requires every member of society to play a role in shaping the world they wish to inhabit. 

"The true measure of our humanity lies in our ability to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves," says Burney, urging everyone to strive to build a world where the rights of all individuals are respected and upheld and where justice truly prevails.