Through the eyes of an American: The beauty that Pakistan and its people have to offer

“Bhabi ke liye hee hans do!” (Smile for the sake of our sister-in-law) The Empress Market shopkeepers teased the stoic sabzi wala (vegetable vendor), encouraging him to smile for my camera. This was my first visit to Pakistan and all I wanted was to capture that one perfect shot. The sabzi wala raised his head and grinned. I snapped the image.  Street photography, for most of these Karachiite shopkeepers wasn’t a novelty. However, I visited numerous places on my trip where street photography was seen with awe, and curiosity. Even in Karachi, I drew attention walking around the city with a Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) camera and lens. I noticed people staring at me ...

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Please let Pakistan’s national anthem be as it is – powerful and poignant

In 2011, while attending the opening ceremony of a Model United Nations (MUN) conference in Karachi, I came to an odd yet poignant moment. Before the ceremony officially began, it was announced that the national anthem was to be played and hence everyone should arise from our seats to show respect. Everyone did so accordingly. However, when the anthem was played, it was nothing like the powerful melody we have all been brought up listening to. Firstly, it was a guitar version of the anthem, without the robust drums which made the tune so colourful and lively. Secondly, it did not have lyrics. Both these things made the ...

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O’ Parachinar, your loyalty is not enough for Pakistan

Addey, my grandmother, would reminisce about memories of her father with pride in her eyes and say, “I was a little girl of seven and the memory of him sitting in a room and sewing green coloured clothes and the flag of Pakistan with his own hands before the Partition is still afresh in my eyes. He used to write letters to Mohammad Ali Jinnah on behalf of the people of Parachinar to express his willingness to join Pakistan. He received directions by him in return for the Pakistan Movement in this tribal region. He travelled on horses along with other companions from Parachinar to Delhi to meet Jinnah ...

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KGS, FPS, Nixor, Southshore, Lyceum or Cedar – The choices you make today will mould your future tomorrow

If you think you can relax right after taking your O’ level examinations, you’re wrong. Right after you’re done with your exams, people begin bombarding you with all sorts of questions, asking you what your plans are for college and what subjects you’re going to opt for. There is literally no chill, and apparently for all the right reasons. The decisions you make now will affect the course of your life. I know this sounds scary, but it’s true. After O’ level exams finish, the main concern is the arduous process of choosing a school for A’ levels. But before getting to that part, you ...

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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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