Stories about security

Islamabad Etcetera: The navab’s guard of desi farangis

This little preamble shall serve as a disclaimer, for in one’s present attempt, one is by no means being actively obnoxious or wilfully indelicate about one’s chosen subject today, fellow compatriots. Taking swipes at one’s countrymen is nearly always construed as bad taste. Some creeping abasement, some personal impulsion staining one’s argument, denying its objectivity. But regardless of this oft-resorted to response, one will press on. Pakistanis in the employ of foreigners are a special breed.  Like a Gunga Din, an Uncle Tom, these trusted servants, like their literary or historic forebears, are a buffer to their employers, factotums who ...

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Why should I live in Pakistan?

It’s not okay when you switch on the TV to find out that someone you know has become a victim of target killing. It’s not okay to see that because it leaves you with a hundred unanswered questions about why you are still living in this country. That’s how I felt yesterday when I heard the news that Wali Khan Babar, a fellow reporter and my senior in university, was shot dead in an incident of target killing. As the news kept flashing images of him over and over again, I was reminded of him – clad in huge sunglasses and ...

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Why I broke the law at the Islamabad airport

While working abroad, not many of us can afford to go back to Pakistan for a visit as often as we like. In 2009, when I finally had some time (and $1700 to spare), I landed in Islamabad. Two weeks flew by and I found myself at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport, ready to head back to the US. As I handed my passport to the official looking security fellow, he looked at my face and said: “ji, aap kay pass protector nahi hai” (you do not have a protector). With my passport handed back to me, I was dismissed. Having no clue what ...

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I don’t want to make New Year’s resolutions

With the start of 2011, everyone all over the world is busy finalising their resolutions for the new year and assessing their efforts at accomplishing, or perhaps failing, to meet their goals for the previous one. In my opinion, New Year resolutions may not be such a great idea for the people of Pakistan. The reason is clear and simple. Every morning, many of us leave for office, children leave for school, college or university, not knowing whether we will reach our destination safely or even return home safe and sound. Even those who stay at home fear for their loved ...

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What about the non-VIPs?

While on my way to cover an event I was made to deviate from my intended route as the police stopped me amongst a dozen other motorists in order to allow a ‘VVIP’ to pass through.  The first thing that went through my mind was, “Are they really worth my time and my life?” The answer is, no. I had to travel a good extra couple of miles to get to another intersection where I joined a long queue of vehicles piled up at a police check point. I stopped myself from delving into a motivated judgment and decided to wait ...

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World cup preparations: Thumbs down

Wherever a world cup is organised, we see extravagant arrangements made by the host nations. In order to make such an event resplendent and magnificent, some prolific efforts and resources are required. But if we have a look at the arrangements made for the 2011 cricket World Cup to be hosted by India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the situation is far from perfect. The arrangements comprise two main aspects: 1. Ground preparation 2. Security Ground preparation India and Sri Lanka, the two largest cricketing nations, have failed to meet the deadlines given to them by the International Cricket Council (ICC), which was November 30, 2010 ...

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Frisky business: Why Indian diplomats should be checked at airports

What differentiates a democratic system of governance from colonial rule or from a totalitarian system or a feudal order is the rule of law and equality before law. India has been a practising democracy for more than 60 years and several landmark social and political changes have taken place in the country to break the nation free from feudal and colonial ways. But somehow the desire of the ruling  and rich class to see themselves above others is so deep rooted that whenever there is an attack on this hierarchy, the privileged class makes it a national issue and links it with national ...

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Karachi in the grips of extortionists, terrorists

Earlier this month Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza entered the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) building for a media briefing where a businessman handed him a ‘parchi’  from extortionists and asked the minister to take action against the people who had been threatening him if they didn’t pay the required sum. The ‘parchi’ practice Being a part of the business community in Karachi for several decades, I can confirm that the parchi system is normal practice in Karachi. Political parties, gangsters, ‘community associations’ and representatives of so-called philanthropic and religious organisations pay regular visits to business units around the city ...

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US airports: (Not) a humiliating experience

Earlier this year, Javed Chaudhry wrote a column titled “A humiliating experience” for The Express Tribune. He details a bad experience at the hands of immigration officials upon arrival at a US airport. Unlike Chaudhry, my recent experiences of applying for visas and then traveling to North America as a Pakistani on a Pakistani passport was extremely pleasant. I applied for a visit visa to the US from the UAE. At the interview, the officer looked intimidating. However, his tone of questioning was very humble. The officer kept addressing my wife and I using the terms “ma’am” or “sir” respectively. The questions ...

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On being considered a Taliban…

Earlier this week,  Rangers personnel cordoned off Kunwari Colony, a Pashtun-dominated area in Manghopir, Karachi. The area is inhabited mostly by people belonging to the Mehsud tribe that hails mainly from Waziristan. The Rangers banned the exit of all and sundry from the colony with the help of police. They then started a door-to-door operation arresting anyone they found to be suspect; tied their hands, covered their faces and put them into trucks. More than 1,500 were booked and shifted to undisclosed places. Most of them are daily wage labourers and road-side vendors who sell scrap items or fruits. Later some ...

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