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Characters from Team Muhafiz. — Photo courtesy: Facebook
Characters from Team Muhafiz. — Photo courtesy: Facebook

Young minds are the most susceptible to damage, and in a society like ours, they easily tend to fall victim to drug peddlers, abusers and those who use them to commit crimes for their own gains.

This is why when Imran Azhar, the CEO of Azcorp Entertainment, was launching a comic book revolving around teenage Pakistani heroes, he decided that the first people to get a look at the book should be those who need it most.

Imran Azhar introduces the comics to children — Publicity photo
Imran Azhar introduces the comics to children — Publicity photo

The soft launch of the first chapter of local upcoming comic book Team Muhafiz took place last week at the Youthful Offenders Industrial School (YOIS) located in the Karachi Central Jail, where teenage inmates were introduced to a new set of heroes who come from different ethnic and religious backgrounds and are fighting for social justice.

A page from the first chapter of the comic. — Photo courtesy: Facebook
A page from the first chapter of the comic. — Photo courtesy: Facebook

“Team Muhafiz is about redefining our villains – villains who are cutting trees, encroaching green space for their personal gains, selling drugs to children and using the same children to commit crimes once they become addicts. What better place to launch the comic than the central jail, where young offenders are the very victims of those villains who use them as a means to their own end,” Azhar said while explaining his choice for the venue of the launch.

Children go through the comics. — Publicity photo
Children go through the comics. — Publicity photo

Around 40 comics were distributed to 100 teenagers — most of them between the ages of 15 and 18 — which will be kept in the school's library. Even though the comic book has an Urdu version as well, the team decided to distribute the ones in English after discussing the matter with SP Ghulam Murtaza, who informed them that a teacher will soon be coming to the school to teach English through the comic books.

As the first chapter of Team Muhafiz centres around deforestation, Corporate Relations Manager of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF – Pakistan), Asad Shahbaz Khan, was also present at the launch to highlight the importance of forests and plant-life in general. After the presentation, the children planted 30 fruit trees inside the YOIS facility, where free Team Muhafiz books were distributed along with gift packs by WWF – Pakistan. In addition, painting materials were donated, which will be used for the teenager’s art classes.

Imran Azhar with actor Adnan Siddiqui, SP Ghulam Murtaza, WWF Corporate Relations Manager Asad Shahbaz Khan and other attendees. — Publicity photo
Imran Azhar with actor Adnan Siddiqui, SP Ghulam Murtaza, WWF Corporate Relations Manager Asad Shahbaz Khan and other attendees. — Publicity photo

Read: Team Muhafiz: Where adults fail, teenagers take charge

The launch will become a monthly event and every new chapter will be first launched at the YOIS before being offered to the public. Each month, the Team Muhafiz heroes will stand up to different faces of evil, from drug pushers to illegal arms and deforestation.

“Hopefully our plan will work, and through entertaining content, not only these children will learn English but will also start to believe in the power of diversity and an inclusive society,” said Azhar.

“[These young offenders are] smart, bold and willing to survive against all odds. Sadly, the other aspect is that they have been deprived of their childhood and had to make difficult choices at a very young age,” said Azhar. “When I asked ‘what will you do when you leave YOIS’, one of them replied, ‘I will do exactly what I was doing before… like I have a choice’. I have never felt so helpless before.”

Children see the presentation given by Imran. — Publicity photo
Children see the presentation given by Imran. — Publicity photo

Azhar hopes that these children will pick up the good lessons from the comic series and become Pakistan's own 'Team Muhafiz' some day.