He asked me why I never “act like a woman” – what does that mean?

Earlier this week, I went bursting into the courtroom to show my fellow colleague the new book I was reading. I exclaimed, “Oh my god. You have to see this!” Although no one was alerted by my vivacious excitement, he was completely mortified. He exclaimed, “What is wrong with you? Why do you never act like a woman? They are supposed to be quiet and elegant”. As annoyed as I was with his remark, I had to admit he revealed an unearthing reality of our society. Women are expected to be clones of the typical damsel in distress – quiet, shy, dignified – ...

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Yes, I stammer when I talk

This tale doesn’t have a happily ever after. The protagonist doesn’t emerge victorious against all odds; neither does she have a moment of epiphany or self-realisation. This is the story of how I haven’t and perhaps never will overcome my stammer, a speech impediment disrupting the fluency of speech due to involuntary repetitions and pauses. Even as I write this I am plagued with the fear of being judged and the trepidation of being misunderstood – feelings that have been with me since I started stammering at the age of five. I am not your average stammerer who stumbles upon ...

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Pakistan may be poor, but it has a rich culture – much richer than any country in the west

As I grew up in the 90s, every couple of months I would see my mom and dad pack up their bags and go on official tours around the world; America, Europe, you name it. My sister and I would eagerly await their return, not because we wanted to see our parents, but because we wanted to open up their suitcases full of goodies. They would be stuffed with clothes, toys, chocolates and things that we apparently couldn’t buy in Pakistan. We would wear these international clothes with pride and we felt “better” than everyone else, because we had ...

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Is PIA operating planes or over-crowded minibuses?

In Pakistan, we are all used to seeing overcrowded minibuses force miserable commuters to travel standing because they are carrying customers beyond capacity. And when the vehicles are crammed to the point where it is impossible to fit anyone else inside, they dangerously accommodate passengers on top. People only travel like this because they don’t have a choice and are helpless. Of all the ways Pakistan International Airline (PIA) has mistreated its customers over the years, I never thought it would force passengers to travel like they would on a minibus. Yet on January 20, 2017, PIA flight PK-743 forced ...

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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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