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. ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

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 ...

Read Full Post

Don’t equate the United Baloch Army with the Taliban!

Wednesday April 9, 2014. 8 am. Islamabad I-11’s fruit market. A blast rips through the usually quiet federal capital morning. Over two dozen lives lost. Everyday news in everyday Pakistan. The only difference? The attack was not claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or one of its various splinter groups. It was claimed by the United Baloch Army (UBA). This has been the second attack of its kind carried out by the UBA in the last few days. The first one took place at a train station in Sibi, Balochistan, killing 17 people. While in the last few hours the government has rejected the ...

Read Full Post

Why are Pakistani women obsessed with their weight?

I should make it clear from the beginning that this unhealthy obsession with weight is not limited to Pakistani women but is the universal truth for women everywhere.  We are either too thin or too fat, with most of us being the latter. In Pakistan, a woman’s elegance, grace, beauty or self-worth is all linked to her weight and other women, mostly, deem a skinny female to be successful.  I noticed this on a recent trip to Pakistan. After meeting relatives whom I hadn’t seen for a long time, the first thing they commented on was my weight, which had become quite rotund. It didn’t occur ...

Read Full Post

Why do we need peace talks if we have the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO)?

 The Government of Pakistan is in the process of carrying out a dialogue with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – they who have been hiding in Pakistan and have attacked the Pakistani armed forces, national strategic places and killed more than 50,000 people of Pakistan. Despite these facts, the government continues to pursue these ‘negotiations’. The recent Protection of Pakistan Ordinance (PPO) bill, approved by the presidential house, gives full support to the armed forces to take action against state enemies who are waging war against Pakistan from within the country’s borders. Therefore, the question then is what was the need for such a bill when the ...

Read Full Post

We are all blasphemers

A few days back, as an aftermath of the sectarian violence in Rawalpindi on Ashura last year, I saw a post on a social media site which supported the idea of death by hanging for any act of blasphemy done against Allah (swt), the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his companions (ra) and the Ahle Bayt. There were a lot of comments; emotionally charged Muslims, full with religious fervour, supported and encouraged the motion polishing their imaan. After going through a number of comments, I decided, it was time for me to finally explode. It had been a while since my last backlash on society, religious extremists and particularly anyone ...

Read Full Post