Stories about identity

On being Pakistani

With 14th of August around the corner, festive fever is on the rise. Civic organizations, student groups, and social, electronic and print media are joining the swelling ranks of celebratory brigades. And that’s where some of the problems with ill-informed, obsessive nationalism begin. Have you been confused by invitations to ‘no ethnic identities welcome’ events? If yes, read on.   This past week, I received a few invitations for Independence Day walks and seminars. The proposition, ‘No Sindhi, No Punjabi, No Pathan, and No Balochi – Only Pakistani Welcome’ made them distasteful. Honestly, who’s left then? With the exception of a few citizens ...

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Pakistan’s underrated luxury brands

Pre-historic or post-modern, in peace or in trauma, human beings have always been inclined towards the creation of beauty and self-expression as means of their personal survival and identity. Modern Pakistanis, too, are heavily invested in the creation of tools of aesthetic indulgence; it’s a sound business enterprise as the need for pleasing surroundings and luxurious products is one that does not diminish; it hasn’t faltered since the Neanderthals wore pigment-stained seashell necklaces around their necks. It’s what we draw solace from in a world that has been consistently unpredictable. Brands are identity- national identity There are imported products and there are ...

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It’s not easy being gay

I am a male. I am a Muslim. I am a Pakistani and I am gay. I come from a deeply religious family, where everyone prays five times a day and reads the Qur’an every day. I came to the realization when I was eighteen-years-old, while I was in a relationship with my first girlfriend. Even though I was with her, I did not feel any sort of attraction towards her. The only feeling that I felt for her was of a friendly affection, nothing more and nothing less. I say realization, but deep down I suppose I always knew that I ...

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Identity for sale

My fellow countrymen, everything in this country is for sale. Let me elaborate. Recently, my cousin completed his graduation and his family thought it was time to send the boy abroad for higher studies. My uncle, his father, got him all geared up with all the necessary files and documents, but little did he know he was in for a surprise. When they reached the passport office, they were told that there was a problem with my cousin’s identity card. The passport officials then directed them to the office of the National Database Registration Authority (Nadra) where the real problem ...

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‘Shisha is too fun to ban’

A study published in 2008 revealed that there is a link between heavy hookah smoking and incidence of cancer. And yet, the Sindh Assembly’s decision to outlaw the smoking of shisha has been met with much skepticism. Twenty year old Hassan* says: “It is rubbish. They should ban cigarette smoking first!” But will arresting the frequency of cigarette smoking make the ban on shisha more acceptable? “Banning cigarette smoking will show that the government has a clear policy against smoking,” Hassan asserts. “Prohibiting shisha will only affect a small portion of the general population.” The question of acceptability looms like a specter, putting a match ...

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What I learned about Pakistan in Muscat

I’m in a new land. Many back home think I am amongst the lucky few who have had the chance to live abroad and see “better days”. But, I wonder, do Pakistanis find happiness in the fact that they are actually home? I was filled with an overwhelming longing for Pakistan as soon as I landed in Muscat. The alien atmosphere, the new faces, the strange dresses, and the various dialects intimidated me. For the first time in my life, I felt proud of being a Pakistani, of wearing our traditional shalwar kameez and bearing the traditional Pakistani look. When ...

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The best thing about an identity crisis

Exactly one year ago, on the very night I wrote this, I remember not being able to sleep. Such nights were common then. I would twist and turn for over five hours, lying in bed until finally, sleep would come. During those waking hours spent in bed I would cry. My anxiety attacks were so severe that I would fear I may die during the sleepless struggle. I knew I was on the precipice of a full-on identity crisis. In retrospect, I wonder now why I never bothered telling any family member or friend what was going on. Maybe, it was because I ...

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Iqbal: Beyond poetic catchphrases

Yesterday was the death anniversary of one of Pakistan’s prominent national heroes, philosopher and poet Allama Muhammad Iqbal. Dr Riffat Hassan wrote a wonderful piece on how Iqbal’s ideology and message has been excluded from national discourse. I would like to echo that sentiment; today’s generation feels no connection to Iqbal’s ideas. Every once in a while, I see a couple of his lines on someone’s Facebook status but that’s about it. Pakistanis know nothing of the man beyond a few catchphrases. His ideas are important to understand, question and reflect on, because we have all grown up in an environment ...

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Passport woes: Does the world need to know we are Muslim?

Whenever I travel overseas I feel uncomfortable when the immigration officer opens my passport and looks through my personal details. It’s not because the colour of my passport is green; what annoys me is the fact that he knows my religion. Why should I tell the official that I am a Muslim? Is my nationality i.e. Pakistani, not enough? Does it matter if we are Muslims or non-Muslims? We are Pakistanis. Is that not enough for an identity? I, for one, do not understand the reason for having a religion category on one’s passport, especially seeing all the problems our country has faced because of ...

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Pakistan ka matlab kya…who cares?

Six odd decades after independence, we are still squabbling over the ideology of Pakistan, what it represents and what it means to be a Pakistani. With the rise of social media and greater access to information, the urban youth are starting to challenge the official narrative of history. And hence, today the battle of the ideology of Pakistan is in full swing. To me, Pakistan is an undeniable truth, much like Israel. Pakistan is a sovereign country – whether one agrees with the original ideology it is based upon is irrelevant. Like Israel, Pakistan is on the map and must ...

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