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)

We don’t need a school like Jamia Hafsa

The Islamabad administration has given the city a much needed gift on the eve of the new year. With education already in a hole and extremism showing no signs of fading, city bosses, under the guidance of our beloved fruit-alchemist interior minister, have decided to grant Jamia Hafsa, the Lal Masjid burqa brigade school, permission to rebuild in Sector H-11. While the Supreme Court ruling on the matter called for an equivalent area of land to be turned over in compensation, the esteemed city authorities went one better by granting the land-grabbing, hate speech-espousing Abdul Aziz, a part-time religious leader, ...

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Double standards and the infallible military hierarchy

US President Harry Truman famously placed a sign on his desk in the Oval Office that said “The buck stops here”. Thousands of miles away and some 60 years later, the only message on anyone’s desk appears to be “The buck stops anywhere but here”. Memogate has been an embarrassment for the sitting government, even though the credibility of the memo seems to be shrinking day by day. Meanwhile, the ever-reliable Mansoor Ijaz has become a media darling for his incessant, single-source (at best) allegations that have essentially revealed that everyone in power, elected, selected or promoted, just wants to rubbish ...

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KP politics: Of name changes and one-line manifestos

Walking out from parliament is one of the oldest forms of expressing dissent or dissatisfaction with the government. However, on December 9, there was a walkout in parliament over an issue of immeasurable proportions. No, not drone strikes. No, not memogate or Ghulam Nabi Fai. No, not Zardari’s health or Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif’s exchange of dirty laundry and certainly not pictures of Veena Malik. This was much bigger, yet it could be summarised in three letters. KPK. Apparently the ruling party of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the ANP, decided that the abbreviated use of the province’s name in ministries’ written ...

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A field trip to a festival of hate

“The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.” Stephen King Teachers are entrusted by parents to help mould children into ‘good’, responsible, people. They are also trusted to tell their parents the truth about what their kids are being made to do in school. That trust is one of the most important things in the student-teacher-parent relationship. Breaching it makes one an embarrassment to the profession, and threatens the welfare of the child. In the last fortnight, there was the Gujranwala incident, where, according to this newspaper, “the local administration ordered the heads of all government schools to ...

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The spy that ‘danced’ me

Hip hop diplomacy, was given the same reception by Pakistan’s security agencies that the music style initially got from its home country. Though FEW Collective’s show in Islamabad did get a good reception from those in attendance, everything since then has gone downhill. First, the troupe was picked up when policeman in Rawalpindi caught them photographing critical security installations – the Regional Tax Office (this quite obviously being the year they finally meet their targets). Barely a week later, their show in Lahore got called at the last minute, because of what was either a No Objection Certificate (NOC) related problem, or ...

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What is a victim?

All too often we see guilty people play the victim card. Someone made me do it. I couldn’t help it. It was the other guys own fault. And of course, the evergreen, if I didn’t do it someone else would have. Playing the victim is unfortunately an international favourite. From cheating spouses to murderers and rapists, from crooked businessmen and bankers to corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, almost everyone who has ever wronged another is, in their personal interpretations, a guiltless victim. The reality is that there are generally only two kinds of victims – victims of chance and victims of ...

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Are toilets a human right?

This weekend was one of the year’s most auspicious days. A day that the WTO prides itself on and purportedly uses to create awareness of a problem facing 2.6 billion people. A day best celebrated sitting down. I am, of course, referring to World Toilet Day, and if you’re confused, that’s not the World Trade Organisation, it’s the World Toilet Organisation. This ‘other’ WTO has organised ‘Big Squats’ globally ever since the WTD began being commemorated since 2001. Unfortunately (or fortunately for some), the website does not elaborate on what a ‘Big Squat’ is, but simply says that “WTO would ...

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Hunger in South Asia, and other man-made fiascos

We will build a bomb, even if we have to start eating grass to do it. When ZAB used these inspirational words to encourage the people of Pakistan to make sacrifices for the security of the nation, he probably didn’t know that the day would come when eating grass is an upgrade for many. The world’s population went past 7 billion last week, and the growth rate doesn’t show signs of stagnating any time soon. Amid this, the problem of world hunger continues to get more pronounced. According to the World Food Program (WFP), one in seven people around the ...

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Arab Spring? No thank you

When Raja Khan, a twenty-something father of three from Sindh, lit himself on fire in Islamabad to escape from the misery he found at every avenue of life, people started talking. Talking about deprivation. Talking about unemployment. And talking about an Arab spring. Really? After a summer in which a number of authoritarian Arab regimes have fallen to the power of the people and the global “Occupy” movements are putting pressure on world leaders to provide legislation for the people, assisted in no small part by the power of social media, some circles have begun debating whether it is time for Pakistan’s ...

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Rewriting the past to ruin the future

Imran Khan’s book launch in Islamabad happened earlier in the week, and as such events go, it was mostly full of speakers praising Khan; the sporting icon, Khan, the philanthropist, and Khan, the principled politician. However, one speech during the event truly stood out, and it was regarding Pakistan’s mythical history. Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan quite accurately lambasted the fairy tales we have all been exposed to in state-approved history books. The retired air marshal ruffled feathers when he told the audience at Imran Khan’s book launch that while Pakistan has attacked India four times, India has never been the ...

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