Faraz Talat

Faraz Talat

A medical doctor and bubble-wrap enthusiast from Rawalpindi, who writes mostly about science and social politics (and bubble-wrap). He tweets @FarazTalat (twitter.com/FarazTalat)

Pakistan’s Hidden Shame: Exposing child sexual abuse and Pakistan’s ‘see no evil’ attitude

Pakistan’s Hidden Shame, a documentary exploring the widespread sexual abuse of children in the streets of Peshawar, is something one wishes every Pakistani would take time to watch, while imploring his or her own eyes to un-see it. The practice of ‘bachabazi’ (child prostitution), as it’s known around the country, is something most of us are aware of. It is an ignominious fact of life in Pakistan that has blended seamlessly among all the other facts we don’t like to talk about. The statistics are hair-raising. Of the estimated one and a half million street children in Pakistan, 90% have suffered sexual abuse. And for every 10 ...

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No Imran Khan, you haven’t ‘won’ yet

As the clouds of smoke, dust and teargas recede, what looms into view is a picture of aggression and lawlessness that spells ‘victory’ for nobody. Maybe Mr Khan lost, but lesser than others did. Imran Khan has made repeated claims over the past few days of his party winning, which leaves one wondering what ‘victory’ really means to him. It’s important for Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to not let its supporters be demoralised, and maintain faith in their rebel-leader. Yes, rebel-leader, which can be taken either pejoratively or as a term of endearment, as the reader sees fit. Khan has achieved this with a generous dose ...

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Shireen Mazari’s weight is not a political issue!

Being an overweight public figure isn’t easy. In a world obsessed with appearances, it’s like wearing a ready-made joke on your lapel that you just know your critics will use the first chance they get, however irrelevant it might be. Fat-shaming is effortless. On the list of categories of comedy arranged by the level of creativity involved, a fat joke is half a step higher than letting out a fart and giggling. All one requires, is to take note of the obvious fact that a person weighs more than normal, and compare him or her to any number of large, heavy ...

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Why have the Pakistani liberals forsaken Gaza?

Now’s the moment for a liberal to decide if he truly stands for the principles of liberalism, wherever applicable, or if he’s simply saying the opposite of what his conservative uncle shouts at the dinner table. Operation Protective Edge, involving a military superpower descending upon a small strip of land that Palestinians have magnanimously been allowed to squash together into, has gathered supporters from the unlikeliest quarters. There has been an intense debate over the asymmetrical nature of the ‘conflict’, parodied to perfection by the consistently liberal political comedian, Jon Stewart. Others, like Bill Maher and Joan Rivers, jumped ship. They gladly adopted the ...

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Can Pakistan ban alcohol for non-Muslims? Not ethically!

As the nation slides down the slippery slope of prohibition, progressives entrench their nails into its icy surface, resisting the imposition of Islamic dicta on the state’s non-Muslim subjects. The National Assembly Standing Committee on Law, Justice and Human Rights stated its opposition to the proposal to impose a complete nationwide ban on alcoholic beverages, revoking the exemption provided to non-Muslims in Pakistan. It is a restriction Pakistan’s ultra-right political parties have long pushed for. JUI-F MNA, Maulana Shirani, has been particularly vocal in this regard. The proposition implies a constitutional amendment, which has faced a welcome amount of resistance from the ...

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Why the French burqa ban upsets me as a secular feminist

The European Court of Human Rights has weighed in on the face veil ban in France and, in a flagrant exhibition of institutionalised bigotry, has upheld the government’s decision. As goes France, so goes Europe. The verdict breathes fresh air into an old debate, in which the opposing sides had begun to take comfort in the thought of this restriction being a French anomaly, not representative of the general European psyche. But we’ve faced disappointments before. We’ve been led to believe that we may choose either one of the two positions: – Burqa is benign, and must be allowed – Burqa is a harmful, patriarchal icon, ...

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Will North Korea consider this blog an “act of war”?

Facing what could be his harshest critic yet, Seth Rogen’s upcoming film, “The Interview”, has been rated 4.5 nukes by the fuming Supreme Leader of North Korea whom it has satirised.   A spokesperson for the dictatorial regime has accused the Obama administration, which allegedly ‘masterminded’ the movie, of “provocative insanity”, and deemed the movie an outright “act of war”. According to the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs: “If the United States administration tacitly approves or supports the release of this film, we will take a decisive and merciless countermeasure.” It is unlikely that the “merciless countermeasure” would be a caricature of ...

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Just because she’s saying ‘no’ doesn’t mean she’s doing ‘nakhras’!

Sheryl Sandberg makes an impressive argument against the use of the word ‘bossy’, which is often used pejoratively to describe assertive women with ‘executive leadership skills’. In Indo-Pak vernacular, there’s another word far worthier of being thrown before the social media’s firing squad. The word ‘nakhra’ is more formally used for ‘coquetry’, but in common usage it refers to a stubborn refusal to submit. In each sense, it is used almost exclusively for women, who are referred to as nakhraybaaz. There are many scenarios I can describe where this word is used as a cudgel against women, but I’ll make use of a ...

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A mosque named after Mumtaz Qadri? Well done, Pakistan!

I was spending a lazy afternoon lounging in the Osama bin Laden library, bemoaning the dire lack of buildings honouring our local murderers, when my Smartphone informed me of this fascinating new development. I learned of a mosque being erected in Faizabad that is to be named after the man who killed the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer. The very idea of a mosque, a sacred house of worship, being named after a man who attained his glory by murdering another man in cold blood, may reasonably offend certain people. Certain people like, say, Sherbano Taseer, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Mehreen Zahra, who expressed ...

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Bulldozing the poor of Islamabad to make room for the rich?

I offer my deepest sympathies to the elite and upper-middle class families of Islamabad who may be experiencing frustrating irregularities in the activities of their servants. It’s quite possible that the inconvenience is being caused by their maasi (domestic maid) Zareena’s sudden homelessness in the aftermath of the Capital Development Authority’s (CDA) war on slums. I’ll try not to undermine the importance of preventing illegal occupation of public land but this prevention shouldn’t be reserved for just one segment of society. It’s expected for these settlements to be raked away especially, if the occupiers are haplessly poor and have no teeth to bite back. But what ...

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