Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

Killed and forgotten: Another ‘police encounter’

“The criminal was killed in a police encounter” This, unfortunately, is becoming an all-too common phrase among the law enforcers, especially the Punjab Police, which have become notorious for extrajudicial killings in recent years. Over 300 suspects were killed in police encounters in Punjab last year, and this month alone there have been five in Rawalpindi, including two brothers. Ghulam Sajjad and Malik Jamshaid were shot dead during a raid by a team of elite force led by two security officers at the Katarian locality, to arrest ‘some terrorists’. An elite force commando was also killed in the shoot-out. The way the ...

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No sympathy for men

Picture this headline, “Married woman doused with acid by ex-boyfriend”. Now think, what would follow that little news item? TV cameras and reporters would surround the victim, while NGO personnel, politicians, and every self-proclaimed human rights activist in town would be running to the cameras to show how evil the incident was and wail over the state of our society and the state of human rights. When it came to light that the police never collected physical evidence and never properly recorded the co-accused’s statements, thus eliminating any chance of a conviction, everyone would have a field day screaming about the fact ...

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Cleaning up the mess after Dr Tahirul Qadri’s Long March

The long marchers are gone, but fear not fellow Islamabadis, they left us something to remember them by, namely, a 100-odd tons of trash lining the city’s commercial district. The icing on the cake however, was the fact that many were praising the marchers for their behaviour and the freezing cold they were putting up with. I am yet to hear of a person who goes to work, leaves without punching anybody, and gets praised for it. Similarly, if someone were to go on a skiing trip with only t-shirts in their luggage, I doubt anyone would feel sorry for ...

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Protests and panic buying

Another day, another rally, another series of problems for the capital’s administration and residents. The first mass protest of the year is on the cards, and the track record of our devoted patriots — those who throw rocks, bricks and shrapnel at everything in sight to show their love for the country — has left the city in panic. Rumours of fuel and food shortages have led to long queues at petrol pumps, despite assurances from the big oil companies that there are no supply problems. In fact, when I asked a staff member at a petrol pump in F-7 why ...

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What stories like Shahzeb Khan’s do to a nation

On the sidelines of a conference on education at a well-reputed engineering university, a young student asked me why privately-owned news channels and newspapers “always” lead with negative stories. I told him that while the simple answer is that bad news sells, and the media depends on viewership to bring in advertising, it is not always about money. The young engineer had also asked me why the news was so much more positive when there was only PTV. I told him that without complete removal of government influence over the editorial policy of the state broadcaster – which has never existed ...

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Bilour’s assassination by ‘religious warriors’

Bashir Bilour Shaheed’s loss is no ordinary loss. His life was cherished by many. He was a source of hope for scores of party workers. He was called lala, or big brother, by thousands of people whose lives he touched. Bilour made a mark as a person who would not bow down. He, his brothers, and his party, were made to suffer by dictators and supposed democratic leaders alike, all because they were steadfast in their simple, yet impossible vision – which was to achieve a democratic, secular state. However, Bashir Lala was not a typical liberal. He was not the ...

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Rawalpindi’s fading history and phantom streetlights

How do you navigate a city based on a description from 65 years past? How do you guide yourself with landmarks that don’t exist anymore? And what do you do when the idyllic description of the city is confronted with the stark, present-day reality? That is what happened to someone I met this week. My grandfather bought what would become our family home in Rawalpindi from a close friend, a Sikh, who had chosen to migrate to India after partition. A lifetime later, that friend’s granddaughter made her first trip to Pakistan, for a pilgrimage to the Gurdwara Panja Sahib in ...

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Proactive treatment or reactive folly?

In the latest edition of headlines from the future, “To Address Cat Infestation, Dogs Released in Pindi Hospital Wards”, joins, “Drug OD Victim Was Using Pakistani Currency to Snort Cocaine, State Bank Governor Arrested”. Sound silly? Well so do the real stories from the past week. In Rawalpindi, a newborn was bitten and scratched up by a rat at Holy Family Hospital, leading to the suspensions of a number of hospital staffers and a few people who had nothing to do with the unfortunate incident, such as Rawalpindi Medical College Principal Dr Mussadiq Khan. The RMC principal acts as the head of ...

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US-Israel: The evils of exceptionalism

Many years back, a group of people — shunned by their homelands because of their religious beliefs — migrated thousands of kilometres to a foreign land. Once there, with the help of the superpowers of the day, they used coercion and violence to take over the entire territory. To rid their own populace of guilt for the millions of natives killed by the army of the newly-born country, religious-inspired concepts of exceptionalism and predestination were created. Religion was also used as a tool to justify the subjugation and decades-long abuse of their fellow men, as long as there were ethnic differences. Meanwhile, ...

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Shariah4Pakistan: Send in the clowns

Next Friday, a group of controversial religious leaders from Britain are going to visit Islamabad’s Lal Masjid under the banner of something called Shariah4Pakistan to speak about what plagues this country. The ‘conference’, which the Lal Masjid cleric says is not authorised and has not been discussed with him by the organisers, is ostensibly going to be held anyway because according to Anjem Choudary, “permission to speak in a mosque is not needed”. Mr Choudary is a law graduate and a self-proclaimed Islamic scholar with no formal religious education, who, according to the British press, lives on state benefits thanks to ...

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