The lifafa culture and the materialistic desire to ‘earn’ more on Eid

Anybody who has grown up in Pakistan recognises that pretty lifafa (envelope) in pastel colours or in whites, embellished or plain, sometimes with just a name, at other times with loads of prayers written carefully. Inside, the coveted crisp notes and the smell of the currency printing press chemicals. These notes give many a banker sleepless nights during the last two weeks of Ramazan, as clients are ready to both beg and intimidate bank officials for fresh notes. Fifty ya 100 walay (ones). Five hundred walay. 1,000 walay. Even 5,000 walay if the family is upper tier. Getting eidi is the one time when we all enjoy feeling young because every one of us is ...

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96 children from three fathers because birth control is a “heinous sin” – do you understand what’s happening, Pakistan?

When I read about Gulzar Khan, Mastan Khan Wazir and Jan Mohammed, the three Pakistanis that fathered 96 children, I was reminded of a man in our neighbourhood who had 17 children (from one wife) in the 1960s. Most men in those days had six children, though one sometimes did come across couples with 10 or 11. In fact, I know a few even today who have nine or 10 offspring. Now these are not average illiterate Pakistanis. Some of them are engineers and doctors; one is a chartered accountant, while the rest are executives in banks and offices. If you ask them why ...

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Remembering the king of qawwali: This world is a hollow and soulless place without you, Amjad Sabri

This Ramazan, we witnessed emptiness on our TV screens. You could just tell something was missing, and that hollowness is because of Amjad Sabri’s untimely and heartbreaking death last year. His regular appearances on TV helped him popularise his Sufi renditions. Sabri changed the face of qawwali, devotional music, and other Sufi renditions permanently. He spent his life singing praises of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), continuing a centuries-long tradition of musical veneration up until his assassination. He was a sincere performer and perfected the art of holding his audiences’ attention, a skill that is rare in today’s world. He had an unmatched ability to establish and maintain a genuine connection with ...

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Nawaz Sharif is now a billionaire and expects people to not question the source of his money inflow – if only, dear PM

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif retained his status as a billionaire in the latest information regarding politicians’ net worth released by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). This data has been derived from the information the candidates file with the ECP when running for public office. This list is published every year, though there is no actual need. It just reaffirms what the nation already knows – in a country where a large chunk of people are living below the poverty line, the politicians seem to be getting richer and richer. For example, in 2011, the assets owned by Nawaz and Kulsoom Nawaz ...

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Dear uninformed author, your list of the “Top 10 schools of Pakistan” is nothing short of misguided information

A few days ago, a publication listed the ‘Top 10 Schools of Pakistan’ on its website. The write-up in question, which was an anonymous contribution to the publication, went viral. I saw the article being excessively shared on my Facebook and Twitter feeds. The following is the list of top schools according to the publication’s ranking: Karachi Grammar School (KGS), Karachi Lahore Grammar School (LGS) 55 Main, Lahore Pakistan Air Force College, Sargodha Aitchison College, Lahore Cadet College, Hasanabdal Sadiq Public School, Bahawalpur Beaconhouse School System Gulberg, Lahore Lawrence College, Ghora Gali Chand Bagh School, Muridke Cadet College, Kohat Today, I finally decided to share it on my own social media account to see the response people ...

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PML-N is cultivating a sexist and misogynist culture, but PTI is no better either

A few weeks ago, I had written an article lamenting the misogyny in our politics, which is actually a more accentuated reflection of the level of misogyny in our entire society. The Javed Latif incident had shamed the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and made them defensive. I had hoped that due to the negative publicity, the ruling party would adopt a more careful approach in the future and avoid ridiculing rival women politicians. However, it seems that PML-N, which is already in a lot of legal and self-created problems (the Nehal Hashmi outburst is an example), does not plan on learning from their mistakes. After the Latif incident, ...

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Will Pakistan and India’s induction in the SCO help improve their bilateral relations?

Pakistan had been eyeing a spot on the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) bench ever since its inception. The SCO has always been touted as the Eurasian version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) minus the allied army, intercontinental missile shields and funding. Still, a seat on the SCO council would mean getting into an agenda pushing position with two regional powers, China and Russia. After remaining an official observer for the past many years, Pakistan was recently officially inducted into the SCO as a full member. China made a major push for the inclusion of Pakistan despite some reservations of Pakistan’s alleged ties to terrorism. The kicker has been that ...

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Do Pakistani female legislators actually represent women or merely serve as “proxies” for the wealthy and elite?

In the male dominated South Asian region, women are considered a marginalised faction of society. While describing South Asian women in politics, there are contradicting accounts. On one hand, there are examples of women like Indira Gandhi, Benazir Bhutto, Hasina Wajid and Khaleda Zia as prime ministers, while on the other, the majority of women are seen as poor, illiterate and lacking political, social and economic opportunities. A general perception ascribed to women in South Asian politics is that they belong to higher social strata and certain political parties, which aides their journey into the mainstream political arenas. However, women in general still lack the opportunities to participate and represent in the ...

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With no tabdeeli in sight and given the recent recruits, I no longer support PTI or the “great” Imran Khan

A couple of days ago, I caught sight of a headline which shook me to the core of my political conscience. What struck me was the hypocrisy it carefully concealed and the pretentious outlook it rendered. It read that, “Former Sher-e-Punjab Ghulam Mustafa Khar joins PTI.” Attached with it was a photo with a glowering Imran Khan, sitting across Khar on his magnificent couch. Ghulam Mustafa Khar called on Chairman Imran Khan at Chairman's Sectt in Islamabad to announce his support for Pakistan Tehreek-e-insaf. ‎Posted by Imran Khan (official) on‎ יום שני 24 אפריל 2017 Up until a couple of months ago, I used to identify myself as a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ...

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It wasn’t state facilitation but years of political neglect that turned FATA into an extremist stronghold

Whilst our civilian rulers have borne significant calumny for their dismal governance since the return of the democratic regime in 2008, there remain some feathers in the cap they can yet point to when juxtaposed with their military counterparts. Take the 18th Constitutional amendment for example. Since independence, successive military regimes have sought to consolidate power in the centre, perpetrating a phantom federation which in turn fuelled discontent and separatist-ism throughout the smaller provinces. The unitary propensity of the establishment also played a vital role in the East Pakistan debacle in 1971. The 18th amendment represented a break from this past, bringing about an inclusive administrative system by ...

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