raza.habib

Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

No Tarek Fatah, Saif Ali Khan is not mocking Indians by naming his son Taimur

Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan just had a baby boy, and instead of this becoming a moment for collective joy, it has ended up creating needless controversy. The new parents named their son Taimur Ali Khan, which apparently has angered many. On social media, a storm has brewed, and some allege that the name Taimur is inspired by Tamerlane, a brutal conqueror who attacked India and indulged in mass genocide. This group is led by Tarek Fatah, and is alleging that Khan’s family has insulted India by naming their child after Tamerlane. Using this incident as an opportunity, some people have also implied that Indian ...

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When Pakistan took one step forward and two steps back

In my living memory, I have seen many years in which Pakistan faced terrible setbacks. Memories of 2007, when former President General (Retired) Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency and then Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, are still fresh in my mind. Likewise, all of us have neither forgotten nor forgiven what happened on December 16, 2014, a day which will continue to live in our collective memories. As this year comes to an end, let’s recap what the year had to offer. There were highs and there were lows, but unfortunately, the latter outweigh the former and by a considerable margin. There ...

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Have Muslim countries failed its women due to religious orthodoxy?

A few months ago, when Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won her Oscar, I got into a heated argument with one of my friends. His contention was that people like her were ‘maligning’ the image of Pakistan by unnecessarily inflating some isolated incidents. In his opinion, her efforts were just creating negative stereotypical images of Pakistan and which made ‘enemies’ of Pakistan feel comfortable in their hate. In his opinion, Pakistan’s gender related issues were not systemic and were blown out of proportion. “It is just a tiny minority which is indulging in honour killings and it is unfair to present Pakistan in such a negative light”, he argued. Is he ...

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Why PML-N is right to propose the 24th amendment

Right now, all eyes are on the Supreme Court where the future of the present prime minister is being decided. Although it is difficult to predict what the honourable court will decide, implications of an unfavourable decision would be far reaching, not only for Nawaz Sharif, but also for the political trajectory of Pakistan. Cognisant of the possibility of an adverse decision, the Nawaz government has started to take precautionary steps, one of which is the constitutional amendment which proposes a right to appeal against an order of the Supreme Court. The proposed amendment also stipulates that the appeal “shall ...

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Will the new COAS be able to fill General Raheel Sharif’s shoes?

If there are no late November surprises, then on November 29th, the present Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), General Raheel Sharif, will retire, paving way for his replacement. A lot has already been written on his achievements which made him an extraordinarily popular person. He cracked down on terrorism and also on criminal elements in Karachi, much to the respite of many. Moreover, he is also retiring on time, setting a very good precedent. Despite considering myself a critic of the army, I am personally an admirer of General Sharif. He is one of the finest soldiers to ...

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An open letter to Asra Nomani

Dear Ms Asra, I am a student who has been living in the United States of America (USA) for the past five years. I did my Masters from here and right now I am in my third year of PhD. As someone deeply interested in politics (my degree is in Political Science) I have read your previous work. I have also seen you on TV and deeply respect your liberal values and understanding regarding what plagues the Muslim world. However, I was surprised when I read your letter justifying your rationale for voting Trump. That letter is being shared by many who have voted for Trump as ...

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There is no genuinely liberal political party in Pakistan today

At times, the electoral landscape – which by the way is still dominated by apparently moderate parties – is cited as an example of Pakistan’s resilience against growing fundamentalism. It is often claimed that Pakistan has never voted for religious parties and this is trumped as some kind of evidence of moderation or even quasi “liberalism”. Without sounding over pessimistic or critical in a self-fledgling kind of a way, I beg to refute this perception. I think the electoral landscape is misleading. Yes, while it is true that Pakistan has not become Iran, it is by no stretch of the imagination still a ...

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The mantle of religious interpretation needs to be taken away from the clergy

I have often been more amazed not at the religious fanaticism of the few, but at passivity of the moderate majority. And although sceptics will cast their doubt, the fact is that Pakistan on the whole has a moderate population. In Pakistan, comparable fervour is dominant only in pockets. Yes, this is a country which has Taliban but it is also a country where people have largely voted for moderate parties. This is a country which despite being conservative has never voted the clergy into power. It has a relatively independent media and entertainment avenues are more eclectic compared to ...

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Sorry Bilawal, Pakistan’s misogyny will always confuse sensitivity with femininity

“Aur tu aur Billo Rani bheebol rahi hai. Asif Zardari sahib, itna haram kamaia aap ne, thora sa Bilawal per lagain aur us ka technical masla theek karain.” (Now even Billo Rani is speaking. Asif Zardari, please devote some of your illegal wealth towards rectifying Bilawal’s technical problem). “Mein ne siyasat mein naheen aana, kyon ke Sheikh Rashid mujhe har roz gandy gandy messages karta hai.” (I don’t want to come into politics because Sheikh Rashid sends me dirty texts every day. The first of the above is an excerpt from Sheikh Rasheed’s speech in 2014, and the latter is one of the Facebook memes I ...

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Will Pakistan ever function as a secular state?

In Pakistan and, in fact, most of the Islamic world, the very concept of secularism is completely misunderstood. Somehow the concept has been thoroughly confused and amalgamated with atheism. An overwhelming majority of politicians, and even intellectuals, often try to defend themselves when “accused” of being secular, particularly on mainstream online media and Urdu print media. To declare oneself as a secular is considered equivalent to being considered an atheist in the public imagination. The entire atmosphere is riddled with severe misconceptions about secularism. Due to fear of being branded an “atheist” and anti-Islamic, the word secular, in both letter and ...

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