Once upon a time, in the land of the pure, I was a religious fundamentalist

I have a mantra on life which I wish to share with all of you – ignorance restricts and breeds hatred and extremism, while knowledge liberates and breeds compassion and understanding. Fundamentalism stems from ignorance and thus, only breeds negativity. It is a venomous disease that kills positivity and growth. It needs to be identified and cured, on a very personal level. As a Muslim, who had adopted a fundamentalist approach in his earlier days, I have come a long way by internalising a basic yet painful truth – I do not have all the answers, hence different points of view are not ...

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Forget polio, Pakistan is ‘BIGGER’ than India and size is all that matters!

A few days ago, a leading British newspaper carried a news story that stated: “The World Health Organisation certified the south-east Asian region – which includes India but excludes Afghanistan and Pakistan – polio-free after three years without a single new case being reported. The WHO said this meant 80% of the world’s population lived in polio-free regions, an important step towards global eradication of the crippling disease.” It is a massive coup for the people of India, for the people of those other countries now free of polio and for the world in general, for achieving an 80% eradication of the disease. ...

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Does anyone in Pakistan know how to save money?

While I was visiting a friend, I came across something very peculiar. His domestic help, who was serving us tea and refreshments, had headphones plugged into his ears and kept chatting away to someone over his phone. His behaviour remained consistent during my four-hour-long stay and I wondered how he was able to talk so long without his mobile balance running out.  Giving in to my curiosity, I asked my friend about his servant’s excessive phone calls, to which he explained that of the Rs10,000 that he received as salary, a major chunk of it went either to buying a new phone ...

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Is Pakistan making the same mistakes with child rights as India?

The importance of modern education for any society is so obvious that it hardly needs any explanation. And indeed, the subcontinent has come a long way since the days of Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Nonetheless, both India and Pakistan have failed to ensure a high level of literacy, let alone education for our masses even after more than six decades of independence. And this is a major reason for our economic backwardness. Moreover, lack of education is also a major factor behind the rise and growth of violent theofascist movements that pose a major threat to peace and progress in the ...

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Do you have a toilet in your house?

Almost two and a half billion people in the world do not have toilets in their homes or lack access to proper sanitation facilities. South Asia makes a significant contribution to these staggering numbers – 65% in India, 53% in Pakistan and 45% in Bangladesh. Not only does this result in adverse health-related problems, like malnutrition and diarrhoea, it also severely affects the economy. On an average, countries in South Asia lose 6% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because of poor sanitation. Though many people in the region consider this lack of proper washrooms a major problem, it is not the health-related issues that worry them. ...

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Trigger happy in Karachi

I grew up in a city where guns were unheard of. People moved about freely. Neighbours, family and friends dropped in without informing. Gates were left open and doors unlocked. We were taught never to point a gun at anyone or even threaten anyone. We were repeatedly reminded of guns being a matter of life and death and a grave responsibility. The only exposure we had to guns was when we went up North during summers. Over there, a man was not a man unless he had a gun hanging on his shoulder as carrying guns signified manhood. Pakistani laws ...

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Bulldozing the poor of Islamabad to make room for the rich?

I offer my deepest sympathies to the elite and upper-middle class families of Islamabad who may be experiencing frustrating irregularities in the activities of their servants. It’s quite possible that the inconvenience is being caused by their maasi (domestic maid) Zareena’s sudden homelessness in the aftermath of the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) war on slums. I’ll try not to undermine the importance of preventing illegal occupation of public land but this prevention shouldn’t be reserved for just one segment of society. It’s expected for these settlements to be raked away especially, if the occupiers are haplessly poor and have no teeth to bite back. But what ...

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They can force them to convert to Islam but they can’t win their hearts!

As an expatriate boy growing up in Saudi Arabia, I dreaded attending my school’s mandatory afternoon prayer session. At the end of every long day in Manarat Al-Sharkia, all the Muslim students and teachers gathered before the final two classes to offer Zuhr (noon) prayers in the school’s stinking gym that carried a rancid air powerful enough to rival Hitler’s infamous gas chamber. By prayer time, the gym’s floor had already been saturated by the sweet-smelling sweaty socks of hundreds of young perspiring boys. Thankfully, the school management realised that the gym’s surface was probably host to a number of diseases ...

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Hey teacher, leave the kids alone!

Our childhood memories are often accompanied by words like ‘carefree days’, ‘playing in the sun’, ‘protected and loved’. Being picked up and spun around by loved ones or being pushed on a swing are memories that tend to stay with children throughout their life. However, sometimes I wonder if children today will collect memories in the same perspective? Sad though it is, I don’t think they will. With corporal punishment overshadowing their liveliness, it’s like a never-ending road trip with bad directions. Pakistan is among those few states where the method of beating children to discipline them is preferred and accepted ...

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Matchmaking businesses: Wolves disguised in sheep clothing?

They say that ‘relationships are made in heaven’. But finding that ‘assigned better half’ on this earth is quite a daunting task. This chore becomes even more overwhelming when mothers of daughters approaching their twenties become apprehensive at being unable to find a good spouse for their daughters. And sometimes in their desperation, they eventually seek the help of matchmakers. Matchmaking in Pakistan is gradually gaining ground and turning into a money-making business. Getting their daughters married into a decent family is undeniably a glad tiding for any family. But the plethora of events and proceedings that precede the event are quite ...

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