Maria Amir

The writer has a Masters degree in Women's Studies from Oxford University and writes on identity, culture and current affairs

When in Pakistan, do as Saudis do

I’ve always maintained that women ought to have the right to dress in whatever manner they choose and believe that moral policing, especially the vein that exists in Pakistan targeting women and their general appearance, is abhorrent. I am, however, also conscious of the fact that my own attire and behaviour tends to alter with regards to my location. I am comfortable dressing in jeans when I go to Cosa Nostra, for example, but I tend to switch to shalwar kameez when I go to Liberty market. This particular form of social hypocrisy is not uncommon and most women would ...

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No, I don’t want ‘fraandship’ with you

Most people reading this, especially women, probably already know the drill. If you happen to be a female in Pakistan and if your age just so happens to fall between the range of 16- 30, then you are liable to have already accumulated a respectable (sic) variety of cell-phone stalkers and perhaps a handful of the corporeal variety. The jury is out on which brand tends to be more abhorrent.  What is particularly interesting about cellphone and/or Facebook stalkers in Pakistan is the consistency of their attack and the belligerence with which they continue to assume that the word ‘no’ means ...

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Let transgenders vote!

It appears to be the season for new voter demographics. With perhaps the largest, long-dormant voting segment – the Pakistani youth – finally energised to cast their ballots in the upcoming elections, it is heartening to see that a much smaller and traditionally ostracised segment of the population will also be voting next year. The latest decision, on the part of the Supreme Court, to register transgenders as voters could not have come at a better time. Tentative estimates put the ‘third gender’ population in Pakistan between 80,000 and 300,000 people, and SC Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhery, has ordered ...

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September 14, 2011

‘Holy’ castration…what’s next?

A recently published story in The Express Tribune titled ‘Pir processing: toddler castrated to free him for temptation,’ September 12, poses stark questions with regards to how sexual violence is rapidly increasing in Pakistan and how the public and authorities are choosing to deal with it. The story itself involved a pir in Gujranwala who castrated a two-year-old boy in order to ‘make him a malang’. The child’s mother was complicit in the act and told reporters that she had promised her son to pir Haider Ali, who she insisted had ‘helped her conceive’ after eight of her children died. ...

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HRK: The politics of pretty faces

The media coverage of newly appointed Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s Indian tour is proving to be equally offensive either side of the border. Given Khar’s youth and her inexperience, there were already plenty of ‘ifs and buts’ floating among Pakistanis regarding her capabilities with respect to her new role, but it appears the media’s fascination with her wardrobe has trounced all performance related concerns. Indian electronic and print media has recently been reported calling the minister everything from “model-like” (Navbharat Times) and “Pakistan’s Best Face” (Times of  India) extending to insinuations about her being “drool worthy” as well ...

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Tribute to ‘Hazrat Sheikh Osama’…really?

On May 2, 2011, when President Barack Obama went on international television and announced to the entire world that Osama Bin Laden was dead, and that US forces had found the world’s most wanted man hiding safely ensconced in a luxury compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, many things changed. Especially, for Pakistan. As a nation, we had to collectively swallow the bile of many-a-public boast regarding our unquestionable allegiance to the United States government in its War on Terror and our repeated claims that we were the greatest of US allies, in said struggle. Above all, was the mixed response to ...

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Are doctors there for patients, or money?

The recent uproar regarding the issue of increasing doctor’s salaries saw the Young Doctor’s Association (YDA) take to the streets and boycott hospital wards. The strike lasted over two weeks and finally came to an end on Monday, when YDA officers were called in for a meeting with Health Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad and accepted the latter’s ‘word’ to speak to Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif on their behalf and raise salaries by July this year. It is no secret that doctors in Pakistan are woefully underpaid at every level. Many would grant the YDA’s appeal for an increase in salary as ...

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Confessions of a flawed feminist

“Should they be like us? Or should they be allowed to be different from us? This has been called an impossible choice.” – Leti Volpp I recall tumbling upon Volpp’s particular conundrum while I was working on my Master’s degree at Oxford. My preconceived notions regarding ‘feminism’ had hitherto been limited to the patrician suffrage struggles of Virginia Woolf’s essays, a bit of De Beauvoir and the provocative poetry of Urdu poet Parveen Shakir. At the time I still harboured the naïve impression that merely supporting women’s equality against all those that opposed it made me a feminist, until I ...

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Let there be laughter

One of the many parallels to the chaos theory demonstrate how, even when everything goes terribly wrong, the result can be inherently ‘right’…for reasons that defy explanation. Such was the packed audience’s reaction to Production Illusion’s farce titled ‘Noises Off’ that opened at Al-hamra on August 5, 2010. The play was written by English playwright Michael Frayn in 1982, after he contemplated the nature of ‘backstage’ drama. According to the playwright, “It was funnier from behind than in front and I thought that one day I must write a farce from behind.” Noises Off, thereby is a play within a play ...

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A regular reality check-up

I can’t recall when I first heard the expression ‘ignorance is bliss’ but it never really sat well with me… until now when I wish I could seek refuge in it. As part of my job, I monitor and edit stories from Southern Punjab on a daily basis. I feel oddly possessive about the district pages or ‘Page 15’ of our Lahore paper because somehow over the past few months they have provided me with my daily dose of much needed ‘reality’. Despite living in Pakistan where one is seldom at a distance from the ‘reality’ of terrorism, corruption and ...

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