She is six and her name is Sarima

Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, there was a little princess called Sarima*. But wait, this is not a fairy tale. This is a slap in the face of a society that greatly lacks humanity. In this tale of woe, Sarima is a 6-year-old girl whose body was found in a dirty drain in Karachi’s Korangi Crossing area. She had been raped, mutilated and left for dead. When her lifeless body was located and taken to the Civil Hospital, it was a miracle she was still breathing. No one thought she would make it, but she did. God ...

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Grieving Abdus Salam and the Muslim age of darkness

“There is no question, but today, of all civilisations on this planet, science is the weakest in the lands of Islam. The dangers of this weakness cannot be over-emphasised since honourable survival of a society depends directly on strength in science and technology in the conditions of the present age.” – Abdus Salam It was last year, on December 5, when I woke up to the news that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, had approved the proposal to rename the National Centre for Physics (NCP) as the Abdus Salam Centre for Physics (ASCP), along with five PhD fellowships annually in Abdus Salam’s name. This was a pleasant ...

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Do you think you have done enough to end child labour, Murad Ali Shah?

Around 20 years ago, a relative of mine got into serious trouble when a European customer of his visiting Pakistan saw some children working in his factory. The foreigner immediately cancelled all orders and my relative had to wind up his business to avoid bankruptcy. In Pakistan, child labour is something that is considered normal and the laws dealing with it are very lax. In developed countries, forcing a child to work can result in severe penalties and imprisonment. But in Pakistan, even today, a child can be “sold” to work as domestic help and the punishment for this is a mere fine of Rs250, if ...

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In a country with barely any women rights, Nusrat Abbasi just made matters worse

In the land of sufis and saints, the province which gave birth to Benazir Bhutto and where Abida Parveen’s voice transcends gender, we saw a despicable example of massive regression to the Stone Age. Recently, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Provincial Minister Imdad Pitafi disrespected a woman, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional’s (PML-F) MPA Nusrat Abbasi, by passing offensive and sexist remarks in the Sindh Assembly. The incident repelled every ethical Pakistani. It symbolised everything that is wrong with Sindh right now – a man of such caliber, bearing Bhutto’s party name, with an important portfolio to boot (minister for Works and Services), ...

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Salman Haider cares more about Pakistan than any of his critics do!

Pakistan is in the international spotlight and once again for all the wrong reasons. Three weeks have passed and yet there has been no news of the whereabouts of the abducted liberal bloggers. What’s been making the news instead, is the vicious campaign against those bloggers and those supporting it. The main weapon is the allegation of ‘blasphemy’ which is now hurled at activists like Jibran Nasir as well. Charges of blasphemy are supplemented with accusations of treason against the state. These bloggers have so far not been brought to court despite the fact that there are laws governing the ‘crimes’ ...

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Can Bilawal Bhutto Zardari ever become Zulfikar Ali Bhutto?

Since Bilawal jumped on the political bandwagon, many had breathed a sigh of relief as they believed that the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) ship finally had a captain that might steer it away from the humongous maelstrom formed by the party’s inept governance in Sindh. However, witnessing the eroding internal structure of the party, there is a proposition that he might not have the authority to steer that ship after all. On December 27th, at Garhi Khuda Baksh, the once flamboyant Bilawal was seen standing humbly and silently behind his father, Mr Asif Ali Zardari, who recently returned from ...

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Set aside that male privilege and stand up for your women, Pakistan

Being a Pakistani man myself, I would like to think that most Pakistani men are as appalled at instances of sexual violence as I am. I would like to think that most Pakistani men would not engage in sexual violence. I would like to think that there is a small minority of sexual predators who commit these terrible acts. However, the truth may be a lot more horrifying than my mistaken beliefs. I am not going to limit this to sexual harassment as I do feel a lot of people do commit sexual harassment without even realising they are ...

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“So, what’s Pakistan like?”

The old man had the most startling blue eyes, the kind that glittered in a wizard-like way. He was a contractual worker fixing some room in the building where I work, and I met him in the kitchen over my morning coffee. He asked where I’m from and widened his eyes. He didn’t comment on how good my English is, but how American my accent is (which I take no offence or pride in – it’s not the two years of Master’s in St Louis but all those American movies and TV shows I watch). And then he asked me ...

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Can Pakistan ever be a minority-friendly country?

Both January 11th news items were almost conjoined. Or like reading the mirror-written ecnalubma (mirror image of the word ‘ambulance’ written in front of ambulances) and getting it right as ambulance in the rear-view mirror. The Guardian carried a report, titled ‘Christians in India increasingly under attack, study shows’, in which Pakistan ranks fourth on the list of the 50 countries where persecution is worst for Christians. APP reported that Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached out to minorities in a speech at the sacred 900-year-old Katas Raj Hindu temples in Pakistan where he said: “The day is not far when Pakistan ...

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Pakistan’s missing freedom

Salman Haider. Ahmad Waqas Goraya. Asim Saeed. Ahmed Raza Naseer. Samar Abbas. Five of Pakistan’s brightest and most outspoken social activists have disappeared.  Waqas and Asim have been missing for a week, Salman for five days, Ahmad Raza for three days and Samar Abbas went missing today. Other than CCTV footage in the case of Salman, possibly showing his kidnapping, no leads are reported on any of the other men. While journalists, human rights lawyers and activists have been kidnapped and assassinated in the past, this is the first time multiple abductions at different locations have occurred within a span of ...

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