Farahnaz Zahidi

Farahnaz Zahidi

The writer works as a Senior Sub-Editor at The Express Tribune, and has a focus on human rights, gender and peace-building. She blogs at chaaidaani.wordpress.com/ and tweets as @FarahnazZahidi (twitter.com/FarahnazZahidi)

The reality of Pakistan through Brandon Stanton’s lens

While Pakistani fans of Brandon Stanton were posting warm and welcoming comments on the Humans of New York (HONY) Facebook page, the power of pre-conceived notions and assumptions about Pakistan was evident in the contrasting rude and dismissive comments. Some of them called Pakistan “that wretched country” and threatened to give up on being fans of Brandon if he visited Pakistan. Photo: Screenshot And so it has been. Pakistan, a beautiful country, inhabited by a vibrant nation, is often seen globally as a monolithic entity in which only extremists and bigots live, and where only bad things happen. It is seen as not ...

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Can I give charity to a thief, a prostitute or a rich man during Ramazan?

Pakistan is internationally known for many things; the surge of extremism, the footballs we supplied to the World Cup; for an often exaggerated emphasis on the miseries of its people. But it is lesser known for being one of the most charitable nations in the world. It is amazing how much the people of this country give and share. The sense of giving back to one’s community is deeply ingrained in our system. We give whether we are rich or poor. We share whether we ourselves have enough or not. If you are in Pakistan in Ramazan especially, on every signal you will be handed over boxes of dates and ...

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Pakistanis open their wallets in Ramazan, but do they open their hearts?

Ramazan – the month of giving. As one of the world’s most charitable nations, and with the desire to earn an even higher reward than other months, Pakistanis open their hearts and wallets in Ramazan. The same holds true for Muslims all over the world. This is heart-warming and wonderful, but with just one exception. Somehow, somewhere, we have made this “giving” a justification for extravagance, excessive spending, and consequent showing off. The common understanding is that if I am giving my prescribed percentage of Zakat, and also a bit of additional charity, it justifies any amount of money that ...

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The sin of being a widow in this world

We live in a country where, when a journalist calls the Chief Minister House and asks if they have any special events for International Widows’ Day, the reply you get from the concerned person is, “Widows’ Day? Is there one?” But then, considering two things, Pakistan might not be the only country. Firstly, it was just four years ago that the United Nations General Assembly declared June 23, 2011, as the first-ever International Widows’ Day, so it is a relatively new event. Secondly, the women being celebrated are on the lowest tier of the social pyramid, and their problems are not given the ...

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We need to stop treating menstruation as a ‘fault’

“So what do you do when you… you know… have your monthly period?” I said to my domestic helper, after my mouth-gaping-open-in-shock reaction was over and I found my voice. For an urban woman, what she was telling me was unthinkable. I was truly scandalised that many women in Pakistan’s underprivileged parts walk around with no sanitary cloth or napkins when they have their menstrual period. Others do use folded pieces of cloth, she told me, but even then the hygiene conditions she was describing were hardly satisfactory. The year was 2010. Pakistan had been hit by one of the worst ...

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Forced to sell alcohol: Why is the ‘ummah’ silent over the plight of Chinese Muslims?

Imagine if you are a vegetarian Hindu and hold the cow sacred, that beef is shoved into your mouth. Imagine if you are a staunch Christian, that you are forbidden to baptise your newborn baby. Painful? Yes. Some of us may even say what’s new in this, and Pakistan’s minorities have suffered this and more. And they have. And no minority anywhere in the world should have to go through this. But there is a huge difference in this and what is happening to the Muslims in Xinjiang province in China. In Pakistan, this is done at the hands of extremists. But ...

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Why I will never forgive Shonda Rhimes for killing Derek Shepherd

The previous episode of Grey’s Anatomy had hints that this may happen, but I said to myself that Shonda Rhimes, the writer, cannot do this. Meredith has already been through way too much. Name any tragedy and mishap in the world and she has been through it. Mom had Alzheimer’s, dad was an alcoholic. Her best friend George died. The plane crash killed her sister Lexie and friend Mark Sloan and mangled Derek’s hand, and he was unable to do surgeries for months. Before that, in 2010, Derek was shot in the chest. And Meredith nearly died so many times ...

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Why Lahore is the best get away for a Karachiite

I am a Karachiite to the core. I love my city’s hustle bustle. I adore the variety of culture Karachi offers, especially as it is not a unilingual city. I know its sights and sounds by heart. Karachi, for me, is perfect despite its imperfections. Yet, Lahore is not lagging far behind Karachi when I think of my choicest places in Pakistan. In fact, in some ways, it even has an edge over Karachi. Here are five reasons why: Safety The traffic at Kalma Chowk is sluggish and heavy. As we get off the Daewoo coach that got us there from Islamabad and head towards the city, Lahore ...

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What if Bilawal Bhutto actually joins PML-N?

The reports of Mark Twain’s death were greatly exaggerated. So were the reports of Imran Khan’s marriage. But as they say, there’s no smoke without at least some fire. Are the reports of the prodigal Bhutto son – yet to return fully – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari joining PML-N true? PML-F would be outrageous enough. But PML-N would be even more outrageous. Or would it? Not really. Reality remains that the present day PPP and PML-N may be different in terms of inherent ideology, but what they do to Pakistan remains essentially the same. One may be on the right and the other on the left, but ...

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So what if Reham Khan is divorced?

There are occasions when the misogyny and gender-bias that exists in Pakistan becomes more obvious than ever. Imran Khan’s wedding to Reham Khan has been one such occasion that has brought to light the underlying and inherent concept that an “honourable woman” needs to have certain pre-requisites. On the top of that list is this: she must not be a divorcee. For most men of Pakistan, even the so-called educated ones, the only women of honour are their own mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Any other woman’s repute, especially that of a divorced woman, is something they can plunder, especially if she ...

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