Comic book "guardians" to steer young Pakistanis away from extremism


When Taliban militants stormed a school in Pakistan's northwest last December, killing 150 people, mainly children, in the country's deadliest terror attack, comic book creators Mustafa Hasnain and Gauhar Aftab decided it was time to act.

The pair had already been working on a series to raise awareness about the corruption that plagues the economically-underperforming Muslim country of 200 million people. But they quickly decided to shift their focus to violent extremism and felt holding candle-light vigils was not the best way to effect change.

Hasnain, a British-educated computer graphics specialist, founded his own company Creative Frontiers in 2013, today employing 20 people, including young male and female artists, programmers and writers, in a hip Silicon Valley-style office in the city of Lahore. He explained: "It was a huge watershed moment for us. I got together with Gauhar and I said 'We really have to do something about this'. We used to stand over there (at vigils) with a candle... but we wanted to do something more."

The result was "Paasban" (or "Guardian"), a three-part series featuring a group of close friends at college who begin to worry when one of them drops out to join a religious student group that is ostensibly working for charitable causes. Some in the group however, suspect it may have darker aims.

Fifteen thousand of the books are set to be distributed for free from 1 June at schools in the cities of Lahore, Multan and Lodhran while some copies will be made available in book stores. The comic will also be distributed on a tailor-made app the group have developed for Apple and Android smartphones.    (AFP) 

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