Stories published in July, 2010

Karachi: city of trash, graffiti, magic and weapons

Riding the train into and out of Karachi is an unforgettable experience, albeit a mostly unpleasant one. Some of the things you can expect to see out the window: Seven hundred graffiti ads for a charlatan Self-proclaimed Alim, Junaid Bangali has a graffiti ad campaign which starts 40km outside of Karachi and appears on walls every 200m or so all the way to his den of kala jadoo (black magic) in the squalid urban mish-mosh under Kalapul bridge. The sheer number of ads suggests Mr Bangali has pulled a fast one on yet another poor sap, advising him/her to paint 700 signs ...

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Laughing it up with Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden is one of the most widely used names in the contemporary world. Before 9/11 he was only familiar to me as a ‘hero’ in some parts of the Islamic world, but I was uninterested in knowing more about this thin faced, bearded man. But after the attack on the Twin towers I became one of many people who were prompted to study Bin Laden’s biographies. I read interviews and books by both local and foreign journalists. Bin Laden is a classic example of a ‘hero’ becoming a ‘zero’ in no time. Every time his video messages would appear on news channels his demeanor and words would ...

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Top secret America – what went wrong?

Yesterday, the Washington Post finally released the first part of what was one of the mostly hotly anticipated newspaper articles in years, a massive investigative report, two years in the making, about what it calls America’s “fourth branch” of government. The report has a dedicated site and will be released in installments, the first part yesterday and the second today, with more to follow. The piece was controversial even before it was released and has been generating a great deal of talk since its first installment hit the press and the internet. If you don’t have time to read the full ...

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Pakistan is our salad bowl

Earlier this week a report in the International Herald Tribune claimed that a centuries-old tradition in parts of northern India had all but disappeared. The article discusses polyandry, which althoough never widely practiced was present in certain areas – but not anymore. According to the paper this custom is no longer practiced in the country as a social revolution has taken place. It is true, one could argue, that this custom has been deemed old-fashioned and archaic in the current progressive world, thus, the change is positive. However, this is individual opinion and the fact remains that this custom was around for ...

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A cigarette a day, may kill your wife

Most people in Pakistan are aware of the hazards of tobacco use but general awareness on the hazards of second and thirdhand smoking is minimal. Most people including children can be seen inhaling tobacco toxins in public transport, shopping centers, restaurants and other public places. First, what is the difference between second and third hand smoke? Smoking by association Secondhand smoking or passive smoking is the inhalation of smoke, called secondhand smoke (SHS) or environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) from tobacco products used by others. The term third-hand smoke was recently coined to identify the residual tobacco smoke contamination that remains after a cigarette is ...

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The rains that were

As long as I can remember, I have always loved the rain. Everything about it – from the fragrance of the air before it to the sound of the rain as it smatters against the windows. When I was a boy and it would begin to rain we would run outside in our lane and just stand there. Our arms outstretched absorbing the water like we were sponges. We would run to a small thela wala who wheeled his mouth-watering chats through our streets to sample his wares. Even when I was a teenager in the 90’s we revelled in the thunderstorms that graced Karachi. We did not have ...

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One-wheeling: passport to death

I was sitting outside a local tea shop with my friends, adjacent to Sanda Road when a bike came crashing into the footpath near us. A young boy aged around 16-18 lay on the pavement in a pool of blood. The young boy had been riding his motorbike on the back-wheel through the city’s busiest road at high speeds. Sadly, he was unable to control his bike. This was the first time I encountered such a brutal accident and I pray to Allah that it may be the last. Motorcyclists like this guy can be found displaying their dangerous stunts on busy ...

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Making money instead of music

There’s always been a truckload of false hype regarding Pakistan’s music scene. Many people do not consider Pakistan as good as ‘any worthwhile western nation’ when it comes to producing music. For many reasons, such a statement is ridiculous because music should never be about competition, and there should really be no nationalist basis for it. So, despite the half-assedness of Eurovision, music by and large exists in a world where territorial borders don’t exist. Still, I suppose if we were to entertain the notion that a national music scene could be compared to another nation’s, Pakistan’s music scene would be considerably ...

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Welcome to Pornistan

If Fox news is anything to go by, Pakistan may be the leading nation in “sexy” online searches. According to a recent article featured on FoxNews.com, Pakistan is ranked the first in the world in terms of pornographic Google searches. Of course, this discovery is juxtaposed with Pakistan’s recent behaviour in cyberspace. Pakistan temporarily banned Facebook, Youtube and Blackberry service in reaction to the controversial Facebook group “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day”, which itself was a reaction to Comedy Central’s decision to censor the image of Prophet Muhammad from South Park. Of course there is the obvious question:  If Pakistan ...

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Care for a smoke?

I recently questioned the state’s right to dictate how we treat ourselves. If the majority feedback I got is at all representative (and the recent PG status of the nikahnama would suggest that it is), then we as individuals feel the need to be intensively governed. We feel that the care we take of personal health, or the safety measures we take to maintain it, should be the concern of the state. I would like to extend this argument to smokers. Should the state outlaw smoking? While some safety measures like the seat belt are debatable in their efficiency, smoking ...

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