Stories published in August, 2010

The man at the the puri shop

One morning, we went to a Halwa Puri shop to have breakfast along with a group of old friends. It was here that my eyes fell upon an old man sitting on a footpath nearby, completely lost in his thoughts.  I was trying to read him. He looked nervous as if he lacked something. He was quiet with his hands over his head deeply lost in thoughts. Talha, one of my friends asked that old man if he needed something, “Baba Ji Purian Khayen ge?” The old man nodded saying, “Paisay Nahi hain.” We managed to get him breakfast that morning but that incident never got ...

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Mohammad Hanif is (not) my hero

Mohammad Hanif has scored again in terms of developing a ‘soft image’ of Pakistan for the world to lap up. His recent article featured on the BBC website, Pakistan flood victims ‘have no concept of terrorism’ has been making the rounds online, with us desi-folk going all teary-eyed, fist raising and shouting, ‘yeah Hanif! Sock it to the world! Show them we’re more than terrorists’. This is quite comic. Here on one side of the proverbial boxing ring we have ‘the world’ all hissy and mean and saying we’re all terrorists floating in floodwater and on the other side we have ...

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We, the barbarians

The raw footage of the brutal murder of two teenage brothers in Sialkot was played in the Supreme Court and the howls of the victims’ family were as painful as the horrific scene itself. Having seen the insane act, uncut and unblurred, I cannot even begin to comprehend just how anybody with the least bit of humanity, could actually stand there are watch the barbarians without so much as flinching. More shocking was the prestige and the protocol offered to the suspended DPO of Sialkot,  as he left the court. With various henchmen running to and fro opening doors for ...

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Packaging hope in the flood crisis

Reminiscent of the spirit of volunteerism witnessed in the wake of the 2005 earthquake, scores of youngsters are gathering at Imperial Lawn at Shahrah-i-Faisal since the past two weeks to pitch in their part to help the 20 million affected by the floods that have wreaked havoc across the country. The spirit at the ground where packing of relief goods was taking place was infectious. One was automatically drawn into the swarm of people who were moving about in circles collecting supplies from the stalls lined around the ground and depositing them at the packaging table. To use the words of ...

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Our attitude towards corruption

Silence is an attribute of the dead; he who is alive speaks. The National Corruption Perception Survey 2010 by Transparency International-Pakistan graced the headlines and remained talk of the town for a few days but then went on the backburner as is usual practice in our country. However, in a developed country such high perceived numbers of corruption would have rang alarm bells and would have drawn public ire. The lack of public outroar – rather a deafening silence – against the alleged corruption which has become Pakistan’s greatest shame, forced me to think, we as individuals have become so corrupt ourselves that ...

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Posing for peace

Is the semblance of prosperity better than the stark truth of being stagnant? Similarly, is the ‘image’ of good relations with India worth the ‘costs’ we sometimes endure? Some say our nuclear neighbour will perhaps never become our best friend but good regional relations, or at least the assumption of them, definitely have economic benefits for both countries. But India hasn’t made it that easy. Six years since the much-trumpeted composite dialogue was initiated to thaw frosty relations, the trust deficit is as high as ever. In this light, one wonders what good initiatives by the South Asian Free Media ...

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The street is my playground

I was returning from work one day when I saw a few teenagers playing cricket on the road. When a ball was bowled, the batsman hit a shot and the ball fell in front of two women, who were walking by. Although the ball did not hit them, their response was very disappointing. One of them said “Bahut hee badtamiz larkay hein.” The other agreed that the boys were a menace and said “Allah keray ye ball phut jaye ya kho jaye.” In a country, where there are no play grounds and few entertainment opportunities, we must appreciate these boys ...

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How NGOs can really help

Although Pakistan has a long and tragic history of devastation through natural disasters, the Government has never developed any substantial programs to prevent or monitor the possibility of future destruction. Pakistani and international NGOs as well as international donors are often left making up for the incompetence of national institutions, raising funds and resources to save the poorest of the poor in dire situations. Currently, international aid to Pakistan is arriving slowly, but it’s clear that a substantial amount of money will be coming into the country in the next few weeks or months. Most people who have donated to ...

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All Kayani’s men: Who is the real enemy?

Pakistan was born in horrendous bloodshed between Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims; and within two months of its birth, fighting had broken out with India over the fate of the Muslim-majority state of Kashmir. This fighting has continued on and off ever since. Two out of Pakistan’s three wars with India have been fought over Kashmir, as have several smaller campaigns. These include the bitter, 25-year-long struggle for the Siachen Glacier (possibly the most strategically pointless fight in the entire history of human conflict) initiated by India in 1984. The vast majority of Pakistani soldiers have served in Kashmir at ...

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We should be grateful

We should be thankful. We should be thankful that we are a resilient nation, where those who had nearly nothing, have now lost everything, are probably better positioned then the state itself to recover from the floods. Our politicians, generals, bureaucrats, landlords, industrialists and people like myself, should be thankful that we live in a country where the vast majority of those who suffer in poverty ask so little from people like us. That I am able to sit in London and write this blog, to be published in an English language newspaper in a country where a small majority speaks ...

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