Muslim spreads yoga in Pakistan

IN THE world of yoga, Pakistan has produced an unsung yogi: Shamshad Haider, popularly known as Yogi Haider.

In a country where Islamic right-wingers very often call the shots, Haider, 47, has quietly succeeded in attracting tens of thousands to yoga, achieving a feat that once seemed near impossible. On June 21, when the world celebrated the second International Day of Yoga, Haider did yogic asanas along with his 20,000 yoga students across Pakistan — but minus media publicity. While others around the world got plenty of publicity, Haider’s success went unnoticed.

“We are also practising in yoga in a nice way in Pakistan but without beating the drums,” the modest Haider told IANS in a telephonic interview. If Haider is to be believed, Pakistanis celebrated the International Yoga Day in almost all major towns and cities including Islamabad. Born in Pakistani Punjab, Haider is emphatic – in contrast to what many Muslims think – that yoga has nothing to do with the Hindu religion and should be accepted by people of all faiths.