Stories published in July, 2011

Misogyny in Haripur

It’s been almost one-and-a-half months since SB, the victim of a local jirga’s so-called justice, was made to flee from her village Neelor Bala near Haripur, after suffering the unbearable humiliation of being stripped and paraded naked. The woman was punished in this most horrific manner by four armed men, all brothers and wielding considerable influence locally, because her son and a relative were accused of sexually assaulting the wife of one of the perpetrators. The matter was taken to a local jirga which decided that the woman who had been raped – and apparently become pregnant — was now “haram” ...

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Banks don’t need to prove 2.5% of my faith

“Get your money out of your account before the first of the Ramzan or they’ll deduct zakat,” warned a text message I received from an anonymous well wisher. I have a phobia of banks (along with hospitals and airports) and dread the very thought of finding my checkbook for a trip to bank. Getting smaller chunks of cash from the ATM machine equally abhors me. So when I saw the text I did some mental math to calculate the bucks the bank would cut in the name of zakat, from my hard earned savings. The calculated sum didn’t seem like ...

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Who needs a gun licence anyway?

When the state fails to protect life and property, anarchy rules the roost. Is that the depth to which we in Karachi have sunk? As much as we may like to disagree, a body count of 1100 over the first six months of 2011 makes a pretty convincing argument. As does the fact that the current spate of violence, with all its lulls and flares, doesn’t seem to be ending, no matter how many times Rehman Malik waves his magic wand or warns us to be careful of angry wives and girlfriends who, according to him, are responsible for ...

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On ringtones and shaving highly emotional facial hair

The blasphemy law keeps being cited for reasons beyond understanding. While some cases are indeed based on fact (your personal position on the law itself aside), the majority of them have little more than an iota of religion behind them. Recently, some 30 clerics in Lahore wanted a blasphemy case registered against the population welfare department for offending beards. The moulvis are apparently still recovering from the threat to facial hair put up by a ghastly event in Karachi last year, when the world’s leading razor-blade manufacturer was forced to cancel “Shave it and Break it”, an event aiming to ...

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Marketing Pakistan: Know your product

On the one hand, it seems that Pakistan doesn’t have much to offer travelers these days with the exception of expats visiting their families, Lonely Planet reading backpackers, Sikh pilgrims and cricket-mad Indians—many of whom have waned from the ‘insecurity’ situation. Then, on the other hand, the ‘Ministry of Marketing’ (let us suppose that one exists) has plenty of underutilised fodder to attract positive international interest, if only they would. From an ancient civilization that’s older than the Pyramids (the Indus Valley along with Buddhist and Gandhara aren’t adequately promoted like the Mughals as they’re pre-Islamic), historical architecture (including pre-Partition buildings that ...

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Why are women on TV so dumb?

Whenever I hear the word “feminist,” I become nervous and look for the nearest place to hide – talking about sexism makes prone to be tagged as a feminist. However, I sometimes think that most people who have an ‘-ist’ at the end of their title aren’t really looking for a dialogue. So just to start off, let me be very clear here: this is not a feminist rant; it is a call for dialogue. The prejudice associated with sex-role stereotypes is known as sexism. In terms of population, women slightly outnumber men in the world, yet throughout history, women have ...

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Fasting in times of load shedding

Past Shab-e-Barat, brace yourself for the month of fasting. Actually, Shab-e-Barat is a festival in name only. Its real significance is to usher in Ramazan. The halvas you are treated to, point to the imminence of thirty testing days followed by thirty rewarding evenings. The mandatory fast, requiring that one neither eat a morsel nor take a sip of drink for a whole day, is a test in itself. It’s a vivid reminder of the nature of hunger and thirst. It is only at the end of a day of fasting that one fully appreciates food and drink as God’s great ...

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Airblue crash: The business of death and moving on

I recall the good times mostly – the funny situations and the comedy of errors that occurred the last time we met. And I remember the disagreements, the professional jealousies and the never-ending rivalry. The death of a colleague last year, in the most tragic circumstances, shook those of us who worked with him. It was surreal. We spend 80 per cent of our days in the office and not surprisingly make deep bonds with co-workers. Some end in marriage, others in life-long friendships, and many others in acquaintanceship. According to studies, workers value their jobs more if they have friends in ...

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The Capital Vulture: Pindi in 3D

“No cigrahtt.” “But…why?” “No.” “Ok…so can I just leave my pack with you-” “No!” This is usually the sort of scene that awaits me at Cinepax, the crown jewel of Rawalpindi. Because Islamabad proper doesn’t have any massive entertainment venues, we have to leave the city for a movie. Still, Cinepax is no longer a novelty (thank God). People are getting accustomed to going to the movies; they’re learning to behave themselves. The crowd has become tolerable. Yet some issues remain unresolved. Not allowing gum and lighters I understand – there are Rawalpindi sociopaths out there who’re fond of pyrotechnics and sticking masticated Juicy Fruit wads ...

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One year after the floods

A year has passed since the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history. Last year’s floods caused by monsoon rains, submerged close to a fifth of the country’s total area underwater, directly affected about 20 million people, destroyed livestock, crop, property and infrastructure with a death toll of nearly 2000. The total economic damage was estimated to be close to 43 Billion U.S dollars and the occurrence was termed by the UN Secretary-General as one of the worst disasters he had ever seen. Before Pakistan was called the world’s most ‘dangerous’ country by the western media (after the May 2nd incident), it ...

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