Sarah Elahi

A graduate of Mount Holyoke College who works with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan

Why fifth graders throw rocks and want peace

A great deal has been said and written about the education emergency in our country. However, the most disturbing statistics are not the ones about the number of children not being taught in schools; it is the ones about children who go to school and yet fail to develop the critical thinking skills Pakistan badly needs. As co-director of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) School Outreach Tour, I work with 1,000 children in low-income schools in Karachi. It has taught me about educational methods in Pakistan in a way that no report or research paper ever can. In one of my first ...

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Using literature as a window to the past

In all nation-states, history is distorted to create convenient narratives. Our country is suffering not only from the usual propagandisation of the past, but also because its fiction is being ignored as a source of both art and inquiry. The truth in the works of Faiz or Manto might be uncomfortable for us to face, but responsible education should be structured around seeking truth rather than obscuring it; understanding history rather than ignoring it. Remembering Jinnah Saadat Hasan Manto is one of the best-known fiction writers from the turbulent period during which the subcontinent gained independence and was partitioned. His stories ...

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School, college, prison: The ethics of the educated criminal

The recent report of a lawyer who tortured his ten-year-old maid in an attempt to exorcise evil spirits should drive out any ideas elitists may harbour about the lower classes being responsible for backward values. Far too many people point fingers at the poorest of the poor and blame them (or their poverty and illiteracy) for the moral bankruptcy that surfaces in our headlines every day. Far too many people equate literacy with enlightenment. In an ideal world, with an ideal education system and an ideal society, perhaps this could be a fair correlation. However, the truth stands that literacy ...

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The privilege to be hopeful

Every time Karachi bleeds, people scramble around looking for something to believe in. Once again, with 85 people dead in four days of violence, there are articles insisting that Karachi’s spirit, tolerance, pride and resilience will carry it through. Insisting that it will survive. Insisting that it will come out stronger. I want cling to hope as much as the next person, but as much as I appreciate optimistic articles, I’m getting tired of the sentimentalisation of Karachi and all its problems. People here aren’t resilient because of their fierce pride in their city. They’re resilient because they don’t have ...

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Religious debate has muddied land reforms

It seems that for every step we take forward, we take two steps back. Pakistan has been unsuccessfully struggling with the concept of land reform for decades. As other Muslim societies move forward, ours is still debating whether or not the concept is Islamic. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan’s recent condemnation of the MQM land reform bill is unsurprising, but frustrating. Keeping in mind that our constitution is not secular and religious hurdles to legislation will always be present, religious debates over certain issues have outlasted our tolerance for them. As long as our religious parties are populated mostly by political stakeholders, rather ...

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CWG: Aisam, or the flag tussle?

Now that the Commonwealth Games have finally begun, we are collectively less focused on the players themselves and more preoccupied with the issues of national embarrassment and how to deal with it. Although the internationally-televised tussle between the Sindh Sports Minister and nominated flag-bearer Shujajuddin Malik was indeed mortifying on some levels, does it really deserve the time and energy we have spent discussing it? Sports have the potential to unite the country in the worst of times. While civil wars and political divides threaten to tear the country apart, a cricket victory or thoughtful speech by a tennis star ...

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Dreams of grandeur for Pakistan’s elite

There are several armies in Pakistan. First are the regular Faujis. They’re a dependable lot; one can generally rely on them to own a vast amount of land, produce decent quality corn flakes and stage a military coup every decade or so. Then there is the army of God. This is a versatile lot – they function as terrorists, loony ideologues, charitable organisations and scapegoats and fodder for dozens of conspiracy theories. Lastly, there is the great army of liberal Pakistanis who represent enlightened moderation. Oh wait, just kidding. Let me rephrase that: lastly, there is a minuscule group of elite Pakistanis ...

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September 16, 2010

The flip side of lynching

The recent trend of Pakistanis lambasting the entire nation for the tragic events that transpired in Sialkot is getting old already. It is true that when public lynching becomes possible, even probable, a country is in a sorry state. It is also true that events such as these should inspire, outrage and force us to question who we have collectively become. Similarly, we need to keep in mind that thanks to the global trend of hating this country and everything to do with it, we are in a position where most Pakistanis have become aware that nobody can help us ...

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I love Facebook (sort of)

Old people, parents, employers and techno-phobes all love to expound on the many reasons to just bite your lip, rip off the Band-Aid and be done with Facebook forever, but most of us don’t really care. I’m going to be honest-the usual reasons people give for why social networking is such an insidious villain to the average twenty-something don’t matter to me at all. I don’t really feel that that my real personality is being compromised in favour of a Facebook-friendly version of it. I don’t have any secret sex tapes or otherwise questionable content floating around cyberspace and I ...

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