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L N Mallick

Ansar Burney is a Pakistani lawyer and activist, whose remarkable journey includes liberating nearly a million individuals from unlawful confinement, and tirelessly defending victims of human trafficking, bonded labour and various forms of exploitation worldwide.

Burney and his wife, Shaheen Burney, were recently in Doha for a book talk event to discuss Burney’s recently launched autobiography ‘Awaaz: Echoes of Freedom and Justice’. This is Burney’s memoir chronicling his transformation from a student leader to a champion of human rights.

Authored by Burney and co-written/edited by Doha-based Shehar Bano Rizvi and Tasneem Premjee Chamdia, Awaaz memorializes Burney’s lifelong global struggle for human rights.

“I am extremely thankful to the leadership of Qatar, the Amir His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, for his support to the humanitarian causes globally and emphasis on the importance of protecting human rights of the oppressed and underprivileged people in the world. He has specially been a shining example for the leaders of the world in these difficult times for humanity over the past few months,” said Burney while speaking at the book discussion event.

Burney, who is known for pioneering human rights in Pakistan during the 1980s, has served as Pakistan’s Minister of Human Rights for the caretaker government under President Pervez Musharraf, to oversee the General Elections of 2008. Right after his term, he was elected unopposed as an Expert Advisor on Human Rights at the United Nations in Geneva. Burney’s unwavering commitment has earned him more than 250 awards, including Anti-Human Trafficking Hero by the US State Department, Outstanding Young Person of the World Award, Paul Harris Fellow Award, Mother Teresa Memorial Award, Sitara-e-Imtiaz, and Hilal-e-Imtiaz.

While jailed in 1977, Burney witnessed harrowing conditions of Pakistani prisons. This led to his advocating better conditions for prisoners. In 1980, he established the Ansar Burney Trust which confronted exploitation despite threats to his life. As a lawyer, Burney worked within the legal framework to address issues while cooperating with authorities. He worked with leaders such as Muhammad Khan Junejo, Zia-ul-Haq, Mirza Aslam Beg, Pervez Musharraf, and others leading to the release of many prisoners in Pakistan.

“After spending a lifetime in the service of humanity and raising my voice for human rights, I have learned that everything that I have done has been because of God’s will. I have served God by serving humanity, His creation. Often, I did not have the means to help a prisoner, or someone stuck in illegal captivity, but always at the 11th hour, someone would come forward to help and join hands for the cause,” said Burney, Chairman of Ansar Burney Trust.

“This book also has happened in a similar way. I can’t explain how Shehar Bano, and her friend Tasneem came together to write this book with me. I just want to thank them for their relentless efforts in helping me share my story.”

The memoir recounts his monumental 17-year struggle against the use of child camel jockeys in the Middle East, and reflects on personal challenges, relationships, and encounters with renowned humanitarians. Burney helps in bridging divides as Pakistan’s first Minister of Human Rights and a UN Expert Advisor on Human Rights. His storytelling captivates readers, as he shares both successes and vulnerabilities, and offers valuable insights for anyone in the humanitarian field, or on a journey of personal growth.

“It was my distinct honour to co-author Awaaz with Burney Sahib. It was very challenging to capture such a diverse array of stories and struggles for human rights. Each story is captivating, moving, and incredible. The book will undoubtedly inspire readers,” said co-author Shehar Bano Rizvi who is the author of the Amazon bestseller Virsa - A Culinary Journey from Agra to Karachi, which won the Best in the World Gourmand Award in Paris. Rizvi is a writer and photographer and contributes guest articles in leading newspapers and magazines.

Tasneem Premjee Chamdia, co-author, said at the launch: “Awaaz is an excellent resource not only for social and humanitarian workers but also anyone pursuing personal growth. The world needs great souls like Burney Sahib to exemplify what a driven individual is capable of and that we all belong to the tribe of humanity above all others.”

Chamdia, a first-time writer, is a qualified Special Needs Educator who has spent years teaching children with learning disabilities in London and Pakistan. She has also worked as a teacher trainer for Government schools in some of Karachi’s poorest neighborhoods.

Awaaz was formally launched in Pakistan in February and is available now across Pakistan at Liberty Book locations and online, and globally through Amazon.com

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