You think you’re cool because you smoke?

Picture this: Brad Pitt puts a cigarette between his lips; he takes a puff and blows smoke out of his mouth. Tom Cruise takes out a pack of cigarettes, lights one up and for a moment, his face stands illuminated behind the flame of his lighter. Heartbroken Shah Rukh Khan smokes a cigarette one after the other, the ashtray on his side full of cigarette butts as he sits thinking about his beloved. Or better yet, Robert De Niro throws a cigarette butt on the floor and crushes it aggressively. How appealing does that sound? Now imagine this: a skeleton lying on a death bed, frail and ferociously coughing, ...

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As a Muslim, I strongly support the right to ban the veil

I was raised as an observant Muslim in a British family. Women, I was taught, determine their own conduct — including their ‘veiling’. We’d cover our hair only if we freely chose to do so. That’s why I’m baffled by the notion that all good Muslim women should cover their hair or face. My entire family is puzzled by it too, as are millions like us. Not until recent years has the idea taken root that Muslim women are obliged by their faith to wear a veil. It’s a sign, I think, not of assertive Islam, but of what happens ...

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Why would CAA break down the beautiful mural created by the Italian artist?

I was absolutely devastated to see what the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has done to Italian artist Maurizio Boscheri’s beautiful markhor mural at the Karachi Airport. Pakistan is seen as a dangerous, brutal country, but lately, we’ve been working on softening our image through art and culture. We get excited when a Pakistani artist is chosen to show her work in New York or London or Tokyo. We want grants and fellowships to support Pakistani artists around the world. We want international attention for projects like the Lahore Biennale and the Pakistani Chowk renovation. We think that this humanises us ...

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When patients get poorer and sicker but doctors get richer

Pakistan’s leaking public sector – led by politicians and a non-innovative bureaucracy –seem to be skimming the national kitty through dismal governance and service delivery. The private health sector too appears to be focused on skinning poor patients, with no fear of accountability. This sector thrives off the inefficiency of and collusion with the state health institutions, which are best equipped but non-functional. Recently, my 80-year-old father-in-law visited a neurologist for advice. He is currently in very good shape; no hypertension, no diabetes, gets up at five in the morning for his morning walk and sleeps soundly. He also scored 80% in his ...

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Do the right thing, Nawaz Sharif, expel Javed Latif from your party

I watched in shock and horror the comments made by Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) MNA Javed Latif about the moral character of the sisters of MNA Murad Saeed in a press conference. Earlier, he had called Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan a ‘traitor’, which had provoked PTI MNA Saeed into punching him.

It was, of course, unlawful for Saeed to react so violently, as it has become perfectly acceptable for our politicians to label those who oppose them as traitors. In fact, I have lost count of the number of politicians who have been called ‘ghaddar’ ...

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Dear Ms Fiza Ali, how can you say Karachi has no culture?

They say the best way to discover a settlement’s “culture” is on foot. Try walking around on a busy street of my city (and yes, I say the “my” with a sense of unapologetic pride and ownership). Try sitting in a bustling chai dhaba here. Try taking a walk on one of its beaches on a crowded Sunday. Try experiencing the sights and sounds and smells of Karachi. Try and shun stereotypes and just enjoy the Karachi experience…. Karachi is the dream of a writer and a photographer and an anthropologist and of anyone who has an eye for detail ...

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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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