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)

Prevention is better than cure

Not for the first time, a court order has gotten the Capital Development Authority (CDA) in a tough fix. After the Islamabad High Court ordered the formation of a three-member panel of retired judges to investigate allegations of corruption in the CDA, more than a few serving and former CDA officials would have broken out in cold sweats. The CDA is not by any means a model organisation. Civic problems go unaddressed for weeks, lower staff goes unpaid for months, projects are delayed by years, and corruption has been rampant since its inception. The new chairman hasn’t been in office ...

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The innocent prisoners of Pakistan

Every few months, we hear more bad news coming out of a local jail. Inmates have been injured due to negligence on the part of the jail administration, and some have even lost their lives due to the jail staff’s apathy. Those that survive live in squalid conditions and are often victims of abuse at the hands of visitors to the jail. Even the most dangerous killers in the jail are afraid of visitors, cowering in fear at the sight of dozens of wide-eyed spectators, many of whom are armed with sticks and stones. Yet, the government takes no action against ...

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Endangering lives in the name of frugality

While navigating a puddle created by a neighbour washing his car, my mind was drawn to the capital’s civic agency’s plans to save water. Coming just days after a confounding power conservation plan, the water plan, while a bit more realistic, still leaves out a key element which has already been discussed at national level — water metering. The plan includes effective monitoring of leaks in the city’s water supply lines, imposition of fines on water wastage and raising awareness among residents on how to save water. While saving water is definitely an issue, seeing that half of the city’s ...

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Can you justify barbarism? The Taliban did!

An odd thing happened on Wednesday when a group of American anti-drone activists went to the Islamabad Bar Association office for a discussion. Members of the Namoos-e-Risalat Forum (NRF), a group that beatified Salman Taseer’s convicted assassin, the traitor Mumtaz Qadri, tried to disrupt the event, organised by a more rational thinking group of lawyers. The uninformed NRF leader was reported saying, “Americans follow double standards; they kill innocent civilians through drone attacks while sending a peace delegation to Pakistan,” He said this not realising that it makes no sense for the Americans to send an official delegation to speak against official ...

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Do you realise how damaging protesting is to the economy?

Another Friday, another protest. This week, much like last, Aabpara remained empty, except for the few adventurous shoppers who were willing to risk the excitement of walking amid religiously-inspired protesters, the same kind of protesters who did so much damage to other Muslims’ lives and property last week. After last week’s disaster, the peaceful lawyers’ march to the embassy to present a resolution of condemnation was a welcome change, although I still think burning flags accomplished nothing. Peaceful or not, protests, or even rumours, have seemingly become enough to instil fear in the hearts of small business owners in areas favoured ...

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A reminder: Sanitation workers are human beings

It is World Coconut Day on September 2, a day to, “Propagate the importance of this tree and to make people aware about the benefits of the fruit”. While the day is also meant to remind people about people whose livelihoods depend on the fruit, rising salary demands from fruit pickers have left much of the global industry looking at alternative farming methods. In India and Thailand, monkeys are a popular alternative. They work cheap (mostly for bananas), don’t need uniforms (or any clothes for that matter), and according to studies, are five times as effective as human pickers. The monkeys ...

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Will the fear ever end, or will I have to pick up a gun too?

The last six months have seen over 50 Shias killed in three bus attacks, while the overall numbers are much higher if incidents of targeted attacks on Shias in war-torn Parachinar and the rest of FATA, Balochistan, and Gilgit-Baltistan are included. For the Shia community in Islamabad, a sizeable share of which is from G-B, dinner table conversation over the Eid weekend focused directly on a worrying ‘what-if’ scenario, namely, the possibility of a militant Shia response to the violence and the fallout from such violence. This is not a recent change. Three years back, an attack on an imambargah ...

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Have some mercy, Pakistan!

For 65 years, Pakistanis have struggled to agree on an identity that defines us as a nation. However, a sickening incident that occurred on Friday could serve as a reminder of the one thing no sane, literate person can question. An 11-year-old Christian girl in Islamabad was booked for blasphemy after being accused of burning a Noorani Qaida, a booklet used to familiarise children with Arabic as written in the Quran. The girl is believed to have Down Syndrome. While enough to explain and even forgive her for her actions if they are true, it did not save her or ...

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A week of ‘highs’, lows and highs for the cops

A mixed news week for the police ended on a relative high, which may seem unsurprising considering the week started with news that senior cops in the twin cities were making a few bucks on the side by getting citizens high. I refer of course to the news that a superintendent of the Islamabad police is believed to be supporting abootlegging operations run by the Maliks, a name familiar to any Islamabadis with an interest in famed Scottish, Russian, and Germanic products. While saddening, police connivance with bootleggers is a fact of life in every country in the world where ...

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Nullah Leh: A solution for one, a solution for all

A continuing theme in the management of the twin cities has been misplaced priorities. Where water and sanitation, two interrelated issues that are basic requirements of a healthy life, remain low on the list of priorities, bigger roads, the need for which can easily be eliminated by the introduction of a genuine public transport system, seem like the single focus. Aeschylus, a Greek playwright widely regarded as the father of tragedy, once wrote, “By polluting clear water with slime you will never find good drinking water.” Case in point, Rawalpindi’s famous Nullah Leh. The Leh, probably the city’s most recognisable natural landmark, ...

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