Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

Remembering Bollywood’s Chandni: The mesmerising, incredibly talented doe-eyed beauty, Sridevi

When you are a young boy, you tend to hang pictures of people in your room whom you admire and love. Whose picture goes up on your wall depends on how old you are. When you are between five and 10, it is normally superheroes like Superman, Batman and so on. Then, as you age beyond 10, posters of superheroes get replaced by real life figures, like sportsmen and male movie stars. Then, at a certain time, normally when you are well into teen years, pictures of female movie stars also start appearing. Of course, it coincides with adolescence and ...

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Battle of the Khans: Wajahat vs Imran – but why?

A few days ago, I had the “privilege” to see a video sent to me by one of my friends who happens to be a diehard Imran Khan fan. He forwarded me the video on WhatsApp while stating that it was one of the most “sincere” videos he had seen in recent times, as it indulged in what he called “constructive” criticism of Imran. Intrigued, I started to watch the video which began by focusing on garbage cans for a few seconds. After the obviously bewildering and frankly senseless focus on garbage cans, the camera lens moved to show our ...

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There could only be one Asma Jahangir, Pakistan’s valiant moral compass

Last year, I wrote an article praising a person who I consider to be my most favourite Pakistani, Ms Asma Jahangir. In that article, I wrote how courageous she was and how she had taken principled liberal stances throughout her life. Due to this, her support for any political party or institution was not constant. She supported the judiciary during the lawyers’ movement and was its fiercest critics later on when she found out that judiciary under former Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Chaudhry was overstepping its constitutional authority. She supported Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) point of view ...

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A woman leading Friday prayers proves that without patriarchy, Islam can be a progressive religion

A few days ago, I came across a headline that piqued my interest. In the Indian state of Kerala, a Muslim woman named Jamida Beevi led the weekly Friday prayers in the predominantly orthodox Muslim town of Malappuram.  Her decision to do so is remarkable, given the fact that she is in reality a religious and practicing Muslim who also works for a religious organisation. This also marks the first time that an Indian Muslim woman has led prayers and that too in an orthodox setting. In the past, some women have done so in western countries where threats of violent backlash are relatively minute. In this ...

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The jury and the executioner: Misusing the blasphemy law for personal vengeance

A few days ago, I came across a headline that shook me to the core. A student killed his principal in Charsadda, on the pretext that the man had committed blasphemy by merely reprimanding him for his absence from school. The student had skipped school to attend the infamous Faizabad sit-in. The fact that the dharna was supposedly conducted for the protection of the finality of prophethood, and his principal indirectly rebuking him for attending it, was enough for the student to justify killing him. Over the past several years, I have witnessed several incidents in which blasphemy was used as a pretext for framing and killing individuals. There ...

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Will PML-N and PTI take pages from TLP’s book to gain votes for the 2018 general election?

Recently, the results of the by-election in PP-20 Chakwal were declared, giving the embattled Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) a comfortable victory. This particular by-election was important for the following three parties: PML-N, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP). For PML-N, ever since Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification through Supreme Court’s (SC) landmark decision, a question which has constantly been discussed in the media is their political future. According to some, PML-N is in dire state after the disqualification and is facing harsh subsequent events which include Faizabad sit-in and former prime minister’s continuous confrontation with higher judiciary and establishment. At the same ...

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Pot calling the kettle black: Imran Khan reserves the right to privacy, but Maryam Nawaz and Bilawal Bhutto don’t?

A few weeks ago, before the media storm was unleashed by Imran Khan’s alleged third marriage, a friend of mine sent me a WhatsApp message in which he mocked Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. His contention was that Bilawal had “technical” faults and was a closet homosexual. I tried to ignore him at first, but he kept pressing at the issue. I replied by saying that firstly, he had no proof for making such an assertion and secondly, even if it was true, it was his personal matter. Some days later, I got another message, in which he was desecrating Maryam Nawaz’s ...

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Pervez Musharraf claims he gave women their rights, but then mocks Bilawal Bhutto Zardari by calling him a “woman”

“Bilawal jo nahre laga raha ke auraton ke tarah. Sub se pehley tu yeh keh aadmi ban ker dikhai aur phir  nahre lagwai.” (Bilawal is raising slogans like a woman. First he should become a man and then raise such slogans.) These lines from the latest video from General (retired) Pervez Musharraf really hit me hard. As of late, I am becoming used to Musharraf sprouting nonsense, but this was very uncouth and ill-considered and below his usually extremely low standards. After all, Mr Musharraf, the former dictator and Pakistani “educated” urban middle class’s favorite political leader after Imran Khan, has lately been ...

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Yes, Shahrukh Jatoi is a murderer, but is he a ‘terrorist’?

Once again, the murder trial of Shahrukh Jatoi is making headlines. Since December 24th, 2012, the evening Shahzeb Khan was shot, the case has constantly been in and out of the media spotlight. As per the latest developments, the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered a retrial of the case in November 2017, following which the session court released the accused on bail on December 23rd, 2017. This development has shocked many, particularly those belonging to the civil society who showed their intention to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. Despite several obstacles and delaying tactics employed – including misleading statements about the age of the accused murderer – by ...

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December 17, 2017

The Alabama election proves that after Trump’s victory in 2016, women and minorities are trying to #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

Besides Pakistan, the two other countries I have always been politically interested in are India and the US. For decades, I have followed every major election in both these countries. My interest is not just restricted to general elections, but extends to state elections and sometimes to important individual races as well. No individual contest in recent times has aroused my, and for that matter, the interest of literally the entire world, as the recent senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones did. This was the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he opted to become the attorney general, and was considered ...

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