Analysing a Valentine’s Day protest mob

There were a string of terrorist attacks last week in Pakistan. On Tuesday 14, 2017, the Islami Jamiat-e-Taliba (IJT) came out in numbers vehemently protesting…Valentine’s Day. Photo: AFP Their creative banners included F shamelessness – it is not clear whether the F was used as a verb i.e. the protestor wants to do something vile and inappropriate to shamelessness or whether he is a teacher at the University who has failed shamelessness. The way the man is dressed in a denim shirt makes me think he got stood up on a date and decided to join the other protestors. Maybe his ...

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Is the Charsada attack shaping a narrative for Pakistan that we need to change?

As I started writing, breaking news tickers were flashing across my TV screen, stating that seven people have been killed while over 21 others have been injured in today’s Charsadda attack. An image conjures in my head, entailing a court session in progress, full of burning candles being dowsed in multiple blows. Another few die, while my brothers look for love. To love is to comprehend; to comprehend something is to go beyond a single story. Yet one single story often goes beyond how we view the world. For example, some common assumptions include, girls are bad at sports, men avoid commitment, corporates are evil, Ireland is unsafe ...

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Why is the jirga system being given constitutional cover in Pakistan?

As if we didn’t have enough problems of our own, the National Assembly has recently given constitutional cover to the jirga system which threatens to destroy the justice system in the country. I thought a system so biased against women would surely not find any support among the masses. I did some research and spoke to various people and discovered, to my surprise, that the jirga system is indeed very popular in those parts of the country where it is practiced. “Last year, a man killed my brother,” said one of my workers. “Going to the courts would have taken a long time and a lot of ...

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Can learning Arabic really prevent terrorist attacks? PML-N surely thinks so

I suppose it is reasonable to assume that the men and women in our National Assembly are mentally fit – people who think and act rationally. We elect them every five years, hoping that they will solve our problems and make us proud of being citizens of Pakistan. But then, one of them says something completely absurd which makes me want to bang my head against the nearest wall and regret not going abroad after I graduated (those were the days when it was very easy to get a US visa). I am referring to a female member of the ...

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Why marriage is not for everyone

There are more routes to happiness than those identified by the social majority. It is time we acknowledge that not all of these routes transit through the terminal of marriage. Any discussion on whether a certain custom is right for you, must begin with an honest recognition of your primary goal. The goal is your happiness and prosperity, and nothing that any parent, uncle, aunty, friend has to say about it has any agency over your own awareness of what brings you contentment. Their counsel may be wise and worthy, but they have the disadvantage of not knowing you the way you might ...

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Will the real liberal please stand up?

The recently held Karachi Literature Festival 2017 was a hub alright. But a hub of what? What it stands for, ideally, is not just celebrating books and authors, but also to serve as a hub for Pakistan’s beautiful minds that allow critical thinking and are truly progressive. Literature and the arts, on such forums, are designed to allow an open inflow and outflow of thoughts and ideas, and an exchange of not just narrative but also counter narrative. One counterfoil session of the KLF 2017 was introduced as a discussion on conflict-resolution through art and enterprise. One of Pakistan’s well ...

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I was 12 when she said “move, you brown thing”

Reality checks are painful. Once the harsh realities sink in, they can be quite liberating actually. I fondly refer to myself as the brown one though many may argue that it’s more of a tan and/or attention seeking behaviour on my part. My “non-brown” friends find it funny, mildly inappropriate, and sometimes, downright annoying. But truth be told – that is the truth. I am brown. The realisation of what it meant though took many years to sink in. The first time I was told that I am brown was when I was 12. I was visiting family in Birmingham (England) for my ...

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The curse of nepotism and kinship in Pakistan

If I come for you, you come for me. If I stand for you, you stand for me. If I give you comfort and security against a flock of bloodthirsty hyenas from another tribe/caste/village, then you will do as I wish. Maybe submit your right to vote to me? This tit-for-tat espouses what we call a ‘strong sense of community’, one which takes pride in its people, its power in numbers, the idea of stability and of course coming to another’s aid in adversity. Obviously, one must be of a crude heart not to applaud such a social setting in a globalised world jostling ...

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Is Rumi an anti-dote for the post-truth America?

On January 5, 2017, the New Yorker published an article with a revealing title: “The Erasure of Islam from the Poetry of Rumi.” Rozina Ali—who is also the editorial staff of the magazine—raised an interesting issue: that in the West, Rumi, the 13th-century poet and scholar, is “typically referred to as a mystic, a saint, an enlightened man” but “less frequently described as a Muslim.”  Ali’s contention is that Rumi’s poetry has been decoupled by his English translators from its Islamic context, and that way they have effaced “historical dynamism” within the Muslim scholarship. Because “Rumi’s works reflected a broader push and pull between ...

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Why are husbands generally so unromantic?

He comes from the office, and has not brought flowers or any small gift for her. She smiles quite genuinely and gets a half-hearted and fake smile in return. Once he is settled, instead of spending time with his wife, he sits in front of the TV and starts switching channels. He seems so engrossed in the TV that his wife has to call him several times to even evoke a mundane response like “hmmm”. After managing to evoke a response, she tries to stir up a conversation and fails. She asks a question she has asked a million times ...

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