FLYING SLIPPERS AND AN ASTRONAUT

After meeting several charities based in Pakistan, I decided to work with Read Foundation to establish a school in Azad Kashmir, because READ foundation takes the responsibility from acquiring the land to build the school, and finding the teachers. I have chosen the responsibility of raising funds for the total cost of the building of the school and furniture for 240 pupils. For that I had arranged a fundraising dinner before Christmas in London. My Chief Guest of the evening was Mr Per Wimmer, who is an astronaut, a writer, a banker, a traveller and a great deal more. How many of my readers have met an Astronaut?

While I was leaving for the hotel where I had arranged the event, I watched the news of sit-in in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi by one the religious party by the name of Tehreek e labbaik, because a Christian lady Asia Bibi who was accused of committing blasphemy, acquitted by the Courts of Justice,who had been on death row for eight years after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Mohammed, charges she denied. The court upheld the blasphemy law but said there was not enough evidence to convict her. Her release sparked days of mass protests and violence by religious hard-liners who vowed to kill her.

Protesters, rallied by firebrand cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the protesters also called for the killing of the three judges, including Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who acquitted Ms Bibi. The three are on the hit list of Mr Rizvi’s Tehreek-e-Labbaik party, which has demanded a public execution for Ms Bibi. Mr Rizvi has managed to turn out tens of thousands of supporters in the past, often forcing authorities to bow to his demands on religious matters. Cleric Afzal Qadri, urged a crowd of supporters outside the Punjab provincial parliament in the city of Lahore to revolt against army chief and overthrow Mr Khan’s government.

Tolerance is the basic principle of Islam, noting that the religion condemns injustice and oppression. If religion of Islam comes down heavily upon commission of blasphemy, then Islam is also very tough against those who level false allegations of a crime. It is a well settled principle of law that one who makes an assertion has to prove it. Thus, the onus rests on the prosecution to prove guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt throughout the trial, noted the top judge in the order. Presumption of innocence remains throughout the case until such time the prosecution on the evidence satisfies the court beyond reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the offence alleged against him.

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan has been going from strength to strength since it catapulted itself onto the national imagination in 2016, after leading a successful sit-in in Islamabad in the wake of Mumtaz Qadri’s execution who murdered Governor Salman Taseer in Islamabad. As disturbing as it was for many of us that Mumtaz Qadri would gather such support, the dharna itself provided many opportunities for amusement as we giggled at the exposition of participants throwing their slippers at army helicopters.

Ms Asia Bibi’s acquittal, however, has been seen as a hopeful sign by Christians and other minorities in Pakistan, where the mere rumour of blasphemy can spark lynching. Religious minorities, who have been repeatedly targeted by extremists, fear the law because it is often used to settle scores and to pressure minorities.

I reached at the venue of my fundraising dinner before time, I was checking the time of arrival of the chief guest I saw him coming down the stairs at the time I requested him to come, soon after the dinner I noticed that Per Wimmer is not in the hall, while I was looking for him, he appeared in his Astronaut suit and asked my permission to give a presentation about his achievements and his future plans. 

Per Wimmer graduated from Harvard University in 1998. During his two years at Harvard, he became the co-founder and first president of the Harvard Scandinavian Society. The New York Explorers Club has awarded its highest status, Fellowship, to Per Wimmer, CEO at Wimmer Space, for his services to earthly adventures and space exploration. A Fellowship is reserved for those who have distinguished themselves in the field of adventure, exploration, science, and space.

In brief, Per Wimmer is a global financier, an entrepreneur, an adventurer, a pioneer and a philanthropist, owns and runs his own investment bank in London, Wimmer Financial which he founded on the 50th anniversary of Sputnik day, Oct 4, 2007. His investment bank specializes in global corporate finance within the area of natural resources mining, oil and gas, green energy as well as real estate and infrastructure financing worldwide. Per has published three books to date and is currently working on his fourth. Adventure travelling has taken him to spend time with the Indians of the Amazon forest; to visit the Easter Islands; the Galapagos Islands; trekking the Inka Trail to Macchu Pichu; skiing at the highest skiing facility in the world at 5.500 m in Bolivia; walking on live volcanos in Hawaii; hang gliding over the beaches of Rio de Janiero; cross-country USA on a Harley Davidson motorbike and back (9.000 miles) and to dive with sharks in the Fiji Islands and he has visited 72 countries.

On Oct 6, 2008, Per Wimmer wrote world history, together with Ralph Mitchell, by successful completing the first tandem sky dive over the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest. After six days of trekking, Per & Ralph flew in a Pilatus Porter airplane to an altitude of 29.500 feet , just above the peak of Mount Everest and jumped out in minus 50 degrees C and free fell for sixty seconds before opening the parachute and landed at the Drop Zone at 12.350 feet.

WimmerSpace includes Per’s three missions to space on three different rockets. Per is a Founding Astronaut with Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and, thus, one of the first astronauts to travel on SpaceShipTwo. Per is also astronaut Number 1 to go to space on the XCOR Lynx rocket ship and holds a space rocket reservation with Space Adventures. WimmerSpace also includes charity donations and charity activities, including 12 months school programs in the UK and Denmark.

Inspire others: Especially children, and encourage them to live out their Dreams

My most satisfied audience of that evening were two 10 years old children who came with their parents. I would like to add here that apart from coming on time Per was the last person to leave the hall with me, as he suggested to me that its his duty to leave after every single guest. When I asked him what would be his message for the Pakistani youth, he replied; continue to dream big and follow your dreams…. The sky is the limit.

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